I was fortunate recently to be reacquainted with two old friends in the form of the cockpit section of XV490, a McDonnell Douglas F4 Phantom FGR2 and the Phantom Mission Simulator both of which are now on display at Newark Air Museum.
XV490 was first delivered into service with No. 54 Squadron Squadron at RAF Coningsby in the ground attack role. I first flew the aircraft on my first unit, No. 56 Squadron at RAF Wattisham where it had transferred to the air defence role and again on 92 Squadron at RAF Wildenrath in Germany. It continued to follow me through my career to RAF Coningsby where it served again on No. 228 Operational Conversion Unit. The aircraft gave sterling service flying nearly 5000 hours before it was retired in 1992.
Although it was consigned to the scrap yard, a victim of Cold War defence cuts, the forward section was rescued and has been on display at Newark Air Museum for a number of years. It was a regular to the Waddington Air Show where the owner Mike Davey opens the cockpit to visitor. Back at Newark it will again be open at the annual Cockpitfest at Newark in June 2015 when I will be able to introduce enthusiasts once again to my old “Office”.
The Phantom Mission Simulator was originally located at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire. One of two, it was known as “M1” and came into service shortly after the Phantom arrived in 1968. It is a full scale replica of the real cockpit and was used to train crews in operational scenarios but, more importantly, in emergency procedures. From the first days of training as crews converted onto the aircraft they were schooled in how to respond to failures of the aircraft systems and how to recover the aircraft safely to Terra Firma. The simulator was fitted with a motion system and the whole cockpit section moved on a tilting pedestal driven by hydraulic rams. Originally equipped with an analogue visual system the crews saw a representation of a small area around RAF Coningsby projected onto a screen in front of the cockpit. In those days a small camera flew over a modelled landscape, a far cry from modern digital projections. A section of the landscape survives. The simulator was moved to RAF Wattisham in Suffolk in 1990 where it ended its operational service before being acquired by Newark Air Museum in 1992.
If you would like to hear more about either my old aircraft the Phantom, the simulator, my career flying the beast or my books, two interviews by “Aircrew Interview” are posted on You Tube: