blue-white flames, the F-4D Phantom thunders
by and performs an ace’s victory roll. This
is not Vietnam, but it could be your air show.
It is a description of the Vietnam Memorial
Flight--what millions of airshow attendees have
delighted in seeing since August 1999.
F-4 is undoubtedly one of the most important
military aircraft in the history of the United
States. The Phantom first took flight in 1958
and quickly set 25 world records in categories
like speed (mach 2.6) and altitude. Due to the
impressive performance of the aircraft, the
Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps all utilized
after introduction into service, the F-4 was
quickly swept away from the glory of record-breaking
flights and was thrust into combat in Southeast
Asia. During the Vietnam War, the Phantom was
successful at bombing enemy positions, dog-fighting
with North Vietnamese MIG’s, and providing close-air-to-ground
support for the troops. While the war generated
many notable F-4 crews, one of the most celebrated
was the partnership between Captain Steve Ritchie
and Captain Charles DeBellevue--who succeeded
in shooting down five MIG 21’s together. This
accomplishment made Ritchie the only US Air
Force pilot-ace during the entire Vietnam conflict.
Vietnam, the F-4’s continued to serve with the
US military forces around the world. The next
major conflict involving the F-4 was Operation
Desert Storm, where Air Force "Wild Weasel"
Phantoms participated in carrying out strategic
strikes against Iraqi military installations.
Finally, in 1996 (nearly forty years after its
inception), the F-4 was retired from the Air
Force--the last branch to use the aircraft.
This retirement threatened to end the chance
for people to see an aircraft in flight that
contributed so much to the history of our country.
However, the Collings Foundation of Stow, and
the Vietnam Memorial Flight prevents that tragedy
years ago, foreign warbird jets were starting
to emerge as the powerful force in the future
of vintage aviation. However, major legal obstacles
were encountered when individuals made efforts
to acquire non-demiled (demiled combat jets
are not flight-worthy) US-built combat jets
in America or from abroad. Despite these obstacles,
the Collings Foundation decided that it was
going to try to acquire and restore a Phantom
for flight exhibition. Accordingly, it took
an act of Congress by means of an amendment
to the Defense Authorization Bill of 1999 to
allow the Collings Foundation to acquire its
Phantoms that were stored at Davis Monthan AFB
had baked in the hot Arizona sun for over nine
years. To make the situation worse, the F-4’s
had been operated under highly demanding and
stressful conditions for decades, such use had
taken its toll. In order to rectify problems
encountered from two conditions, a lot of work
was undertaken to make the old warrior airworthy.
The major 600 hour inspection was conducted,
engines were replaced with zero-time units,
avionics upgraded, hydraulic systems and components
were overhauled, structural items tested and
repaired, ejection seats located, and much more.
After thousands of hours of labor, the Collings
F-4 took to the sky in August of 1999.
that hundreds of thousands of servicemen flew,
maintained, and supported the Phantom and that
countless others benefited from its close support
in its forty-year life-service span, interest
in the aircraft is. Currently, the plane soars
across America for displays around the country--helping
to educate a nation about its past history.
out how the F-4 can help your airshow or event...