Phantom In Focus
Have you ever wondered what it was like to fly the Phantom? This is not a potted history of an aeroplane, nor is it Hollywood glamour as captured in Top Gun. This is the story of life on the frontline during the Cold War told in the words of a navigator who flew the iconic jet. Unique pictures, many captured from the cockpit, show the Phantom in its true environment and show why for many years the Phantom was the envy of NATO. It also tells the inside story of some of the problems which plagued the Phantom in its early days, how the aircraft developed, or was neglected, and reveals events which shaped the aircraft’s history and contributed to its demise. Anecdotes capture the deep affection felt by the crews who were fortunate enough to cross paths with the Phantom during their flying careers. The nicknames the aircraft earned were not complimentary and included the ‘Rhino’, ‘The Spook’, ‘Double Ugly’, the ‘Flying Brick’ and the ‘Lead Sled’. Whichever way you looked at it, you could love or hate the Phantom, but you could never ignore it.
From The Author
There have been many outstanding accounts of the Phantom so when I began my own contribution I wanted to avoid the conventional format. I focussed on the British F4M version which is the one I flew, in its role as a fighter. My aim was not to write a technical book but rather to share some stories which showed the aircraft and crews at work and how the Phantom fitted in. Hopefully, the few areas where I dug a little deeper will interest the enthusiasts but the majority of the book just reflects life for a navigator on the squadron and the operational conversion unit. Most importantly, the book includes many photographs which I took over the years which show the Phantom in its true environment, many of which are now over 30 years old.
I follow my path as a typical “Phantom Phlyer” from the early days learning to operate the aircraft, through squadron conversion and onto the squadron as an operational navigator. I then looked at how the Phantom fitted into the air defence system during the Cold War. In doing this, I discussed how we used the aircraft on operations and training, the places we deployed such as Germany, Cyprus and the Falkland Islands and, inevitably, discussed how many Phantoms and their crews were lost. I also shared my view on how we compared to our Cold War opponents like the Mig-21 and the Mig-23. During my days on the squadron, I witnessed some sobering events such as the shooting down of a Jaguar bomber by one of our own Phantoms, the loss of a Phantom while filming for a high profile BBC documentary and how one of our Phantoms managed to fly a circuit wrapped in the airfield arrestor barrier. If you ever wonder how to intercept another aircraft flying at night using a radar scope it’s in there, along with how you can fly a pair of Phantoms from the Falkland Islands to the UK for a routine service. The book would not have been complete without looking at the weapons and how we trained to use them. In conclusion, I tracked down some of the airframes I had flown and captured their final resting places, mostly now in museums or as gate guardians.
The pictures I used, taken both on the ground and in the cockpit, hopefully, capture the journey. With the demise of the Phantom, none of them can be repeated.
As I said in the book, You could love the Phantom or hate the Phantom but you could never ignore the Phantom.
I hope you enjoy the read.