Here's a few gratuitous Phantom pics from my last trip to the Smithsonian Air and Space Annex.
I remember back when I was much younger, a few times my father took me out to the local Air National Guard Base on the week-ends to watch these magnificent machines fly. There was an access road that ran right along the perimeter fence and there was room to pull off and park adjacent to the end of the runway. We sat there for hours just waiting for the Phantoms to take off and fly around, shooting touch-and-go landings and literally skimming our car on the take-offs as they shot over the fence, clearing it by what had to be no more than 20-30 feet, rocking the car in their wake. They were close enough that you could feel them--the jet blast would hurt uncovered ears, and for a minute all you could smell in the air was the soot that was drifting down onto everything. (My dad was a neat freak about his cars and never really cared for that part.)
I also remember my dad locking the keys in the car out there one afternoon, too. Suffice it to say that we saw a lot more planes than usual that day as we waited hours for a locksmith. Good times.
This video gives you an idea of what it was like watching these aircraft take off. Turn your sound up as high as it'll go for the best experience.
And we were much closer. Just imagine those going directly overhead, usually two at a time.
But now the Phantoms are gone. A few fly on on foreign air forces but our Navy stopped flying them in 1987 and the Air Force and Marines phased them out by 1996. They were all consigned to boneyards or museums except for one lone survivor still flown by the Collings Foundation on the airshow circuit as an Air Force recruiting tool. (Thanks to Ed Rasimus for tipping me off to it.) I hope to see it someday, just for old times' sake.
Pop, if you come with me, I'm holding the car keys.