Saturday, January 23, 2010

Just because I like Phantom jets...

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.


  1. For us it was F-106s from an ANG squadron at a local regional airport. Weekends were the best, as the 106s tended to fly more and there were always DC-6s, Electras and Convair 440s coming in to the passenger terminal.

    Now if you loiter more than a few minutes anywhere near the fence, the airport police are all over you. There are no observation areas anymore. Too bad, kids today don't have the opportunity nor the place to learn to love aviation.

    I have not been to the annex at Dulles. Your post has inspired me to make the extra effort to get over there the next time I get to DC.

    Thanks for the post.

  2. The Smithsonian Annex is amazing--they've got everything from World War One biplanes and the B-29 "Enola Gay" to a Concorde, an SR-71 and a Space Shuttle, all under one huge roof. Definitely worth seeing.

  3. Used to work at the east end of Idaho ANG base Gowen Field Boise Id. in the late 80's. Maybe 80 yrds. from the end of the runway. Late in the evening as the Phantoms were lining up to take off, we would leave the dock and go stand at the fence right behind them. the smell of burned jet fuel still lingers, we could feel the heat and as they began to roll they would fire the afterburners, flame shooting 50 ft. behind the plane. Every time I saw this take place I remember thinking how lucky I was to live in a country that could produce such a plane.

  4. A year at Korat in E-models then four years in Spain and Europe flying Cs. A great airplane, but the pictures you've got have it in the wrong colors! It needs some camo and a pointy nose. Some of the best times of my life!