EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2016 provided the last opportunity for many attendees to see, hear and FEEL the power of the mighty McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II during the appearance of two of the remaining manned QF-4E jets. Two QF-4Es were on static display for a few days during the week - one in Boeing Centennial Plaza with aircraft from the Operation DESERT STORM era and the other in the Warbirds Area. As expected, both jets were popular with visitors, and pilots Lt. Col. Ron King and Jim Harkins were in the plaza to meet the Phantom Phans.
These manned QF-4Es were used in Heritage Flight performances in recent years, so they were clad in the more attractive Vietnam-era and "Hill Gray" paint schemes. The aircraft are from the 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron, Detachment 1, based at Holloman AFB, NM. The last unmanned QF-4E operational target mission was flown on August 17 when several missiles from an F-35 failed to actually hit the aircraft, which later landed. These aircraft were scheduled to make appearances at several other events following EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2016, and all QF-4E operations will cease by the end of 2016. The QF-16 will take over the aerial target mission, and in fact some have been flying for several years out of Tyndall AFB, FL.
The Aero Experience Team was privileged to meet Lt.Col. King at the Spirit of St. Louis Airshow in May after he landed at Spirit of St. Louis Airport. An historic moment occurred when he was met by Mr. Robert Little, retired McDonnell Aircraft test pilot who flew the Phantom II on its first flight in May of 1958. The encounter, made possible through the Missouri Aviation Historical Society, was captured in an HEC-TV special about Mr. Little's life in aviation that aired this summer.
The Aero Experience captured these images of the two Phantoms on static display - Vietnam paint scheme jet in Boeing Centennial Plaza and the "Hill Gray" jet in the Warbirds Area: