Phantom Phinale

— The Video

(Bad) Manners Production, c/o Flight Simulator, RAF Coningsby, Lines, LN445Y.

Music by Queen.

Running time approximately 35 minutes, £15.00 + £1.50 p & p.

THIS PRODUCTION HAS been made by serving RAF aircrew and the proceeds are for charity. It is a tribute to the long-serving and apparently much-loved F-4 Phantom — designed in the 1950s and still a very powerful weapon. It takes us on tour with active squadrons in the Falklands and Cyprus, and on some of the displays performed last summer to mark the end of an era within the RAF. Throughout the video the music by Queen provides a fitting accompaniment to the aircraft — there is no running commentary, instead, TV news footage is used to outline its career.

On the ground and in the air over the Falklands, the Phantom is photographed displaying all its brute strength and considerable ugliness (hence the nicknames — Rhino and Double Ugly) but the overall impression created by the excellent camera work is of an aircraft performing its task supremely well. There are great shots of low-level passes over the bleak (but sunny) Falklands and tanking from a Hercules, but it is emphasised that the aircraft is armed for these missions — a plane with a serious task.

The air show displays marking the end of service life are superb, culminating in a 600kts pass over the airfield. Again, the photography is stunning and clever use is made of a camera in the cockpit, looking up past the crew’s head at the sky then the earth spinning confusingly around. The ‘commentary’ at this point is provided by the intercom chatter which does give useful information, not least about the phenomenal power as we see the aircraft climb from ground level to 40,000ft (12,192m) in what seems like a few seconds.

In Cyprus, at the weapons practise site, the Tigers practise their trade (not seen on film, although the target is closely studied for bullet holes when safely on the ground). The sequence of an interception with Fulcrums and other Czechoslovak aircraft is rather surreal but still stirring — despite its age, the Phantom still looks potent and even rather elegant beside the curious looking Fulcrum.

At the Tigers base at RAF Wattisham the Phantom graveyard provides a fitting end to the video — I must admit that the sight of the hulks rusting away while awaiting the scrap dealers almost brought me to tears!

Despite its brevity, the video has been wonderfully photographed and put together by F/L Mark Manners Monwaring and I await the promised sequel with interest. Buy it for a slice of history and a worthy cause, as well as a delightful production.

Philip Belsham

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