Photos by Howard German, except where noted.
Just how did the F-4 Phantom II Society fete the farewell for their favorite U.S. military jet fighter? Well, during a Phancon, of course.
Who is this Society and what do they do? To use the organization’s own words: “…The F-4 Society is dedicated to the preservation of the history of the F-4 Phantom II aircraft (now in service for over 50 years) through the Journal of the F-4 Society, SMOKE TRAILS, and via this web site of the F-4 Society, www.f4phantom.com. As a charitable organization, it is the responsibility and practice of the F-4 Society to support other similar nonprofit organizations that are actively acquiring and preserving F-4 Phantom II airframes and other artifacts. This activity has historically involved the contribution of artifacts and financial support….”
What is a Phancon? Begun in 1984, the Society holds annual meetings and field trips called Phancons (Phantom Conventions) where members (sometimes called “Phantom Phanatics”) from a worldwide audience gather; it has recently been held at an American facility or museum with a connection to the McDonnell Douglas/Boeing fighter bomber. Lately, the only version of the F-4 Phantom II flying in the U.S. has been the QF-4 Full Scale Aerial Target (FAST), the so-called “drones” which were modified and can be flown, unmanned, by remote control. The last few Phancons have been held at the following bases, with their attraction chasing the final QF-4 flight operations and collections of parked jets:
PhanCon 2016: Holloman AFB, NM (the last active USAF QF-4 full scale aerial target operator, the 82nd ATRS)
PhanCon 2015: Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ (home of the 390AMARG and scores of stored F-4s)
PhanCon 2014: Tyndall AFB, FL (home to USAF QF-4 flight operations)
PhanCon 2013: National Museum of the USAF, Dayton OH (the Air Force’s large national museum)
PhanCon 2012: Holloman AFB, NM (home to USAF QF-4 flight operations)
PhanCon 2011: Davis-Monthan AFB (home of the 390th AMARG and the USAF Heritage Flight training weekend in March)
PhanCon 2010: Tyndall AFB, FL (home to USAF QF-4 flight operations)
Phancons offer photographic field trips for those who record history on film and digital media, as well as seminars and speeches by people involved in the design, production, and operation of the jets. Many attendees bring photo albums or presentations of past Phantom spotting trips or air shows. A fair amount of aviation history is recounted by maintainers and flight personnel – both pilots and RIOs. Memorabilia is offered to help raise funds during their assembly too. A favorite mascot is the “Spook”, a shadowy figure associated with the Phantom, complete with the number “II” emblazoned across his chest.
The 2016 Phancon was held at Holloman AFB, in New Mexico on September 12th through 15th. Lt. Col. Ronald “Elvis” King, the commander of Detachment 1, 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron, which is based at Holloman, was the featured guest speaker. A QF-4 on display was offered for all to sign their names and their organization’s names on the jet in indelible marker, for historic preservation. A handful of QF-4Es were still active and flew for the attendees during the autumn Phancon, but would be retired from flying status some three months later. After being replaced by QF-16s, those few Phantoms not expended as targets between the Phancon and the “Phantom Phinale” in December would be towed into the nearby bombing ranges and used as targets.
One Phantom Phanatic missing from this year’s convention was a past contributor to Photorecon.net and ClassicWarbirds.net, Frank Ertl. Frank died early in 2016, and had been a frequent attendee of Phancons and air shows that featured the jets. You could always count on brilliant photos of the featured fighter in his dispatches, and his recollections of encounters with F-4s were full of details, from serial numbers to flight crews and unit markings. To see some of Frank’s previous Phancon F-4 Phantom photo work, go to our ClassicWarbirds page: www.ClassicWarbirds.net/frank-ertl-visits-phancon-and-amarg . Above is one of Frank’s photos from the 2015 Phancon…
And below are a few photos from Phanatic Howard German, of the 2016 Phancon activity: