Gary Parsons reports on a Phantom's resurrection
Sunday 23 June saw an early morning delivery at RAF Waddington, that of recently refurbished Phantom FGR2 XV497. Moved in the early hours of the morning from her former home of RAF Coningsby to avoid causing traffic chaos, she arrived at Waddington at 08:30 and was lifted over the fence by crane.
XV497 has been acquired by 23 Squadron for the squadron headquarters - the current OC of 23, Wing Commander 'Ned' Kelly, actually flew '497 during his time as a Phantom jock and she has been faithfully repainted by the spray shop at Coningsby in the colours she wore during her stint with 1435 Flight in the Falklands at RAF Mount Pleasant during the early nineties. '497 will be placed on display outside the squadron HQ once the airshow weekend has been fully 'put to bed'.
Issued to the RAF late in 1971, XV497 (constructor's no. 3454) first served with 41 Squadron at Coningsby before moving to 228 OCU in April 1973. A move to Bruggen then followed with service with 17 Squadron, before being moved back to the OCU in February 1976. March saw her move to Wattisham and first 56 Squadron, then 23 Squadron (for a first stint). Germany and Wildenrath then beckoned in October 1978 with 92 and 19 Squadrons, until she was repainted in the new overall Barley-grey scheme in 1985 and a return to 29 Squadron at Coningsby for a brief spell before returning to Wildenrath. The move to MPA and the South Atlantic came in March 1988 and she remained there until 1991, returning for final service with 74 Squadron at RAF Wattisham.
On 31 October 1992, together with XV460, '497 was one of the last two Phantoms to leave Wattisham, going direct to Coningsby, and hence made the last two flights of Phantoms by the RAF. The order of landing at Coningsby was XV460 followed by XV497, making '497 the very last one to fly. The only other Phantom in British military service to fly after this was the A&AEE's XT597, which itself retired in 1994. If it counts, there have since been one or two lifted by Chinooks, of course!!