Phantom phantasy flight by Derek Mason
At the stroke of midnight on the the year 2000, an RAF Phantom II jet fighter flew again over the fields of Lincolnshire. Well, nearly; I, ex-Phantom groundcrew Derek Mason, couldn't resist the temptation to fly one of my fleet of virtual Phantom FG1s over the virtual Lincolnshire countryside around RAF Coningsby, the base where so many Phantoms flew during the 1970's and 1980's, to celebrate the coming of the new millennium. One of a large and growing number of flight simulator enthusiasts, I took the opportunity to use my home PC based flight sim program to celebrate the coming of the new, with fond memories of the old.
There are a number of PC based simulation programs available, ranging from the simple 'shoot 'em up' game level to very advanced (and expensive) simulators with realistic flight models. One of the most popular range of sims (as they're popularly abbreviated) is produced by the Microsoft company and will give fairly realistic results even when used with fairly simple PCs. I use this product and would agree that you can't compare a £30 PC program with £20 million of seriously heavy simulator, such as those used by the military and the airline trainers, but nevertheless hours of quite realistic fun can be had with them. Some simmers take their hobby very seriously indeed, with add-on options to fly in real weather, accurate flight planning utilities and even real-time Air Traffic control, all available on the Internet. Check out UK-Flightsim.co.uk and Flightsim.com. One aspect of the hobby is the ability to inter-connect with other simmers in a virtual flight area where each virtual pilot can see the aircraft and manoeuvres of others.
Enthusiasts have expanded the hobby by making available, often for free, additional aircraft, accurately rendered scenery and many other facilities. It was from this pool of resources that the Phantom I used (XT597) was drawn. The aircraft was adorned with the badges and markings for the 25th anniversary of the F-4 Phantom, the scenery for RAF Coningsby and the Lincolnshire area being standard with the Microsoft flight simulator. I had hoped to find three other virtual pilots equipped with F4 Phantoms on the Internet Microsoft Gaming zone, as then I could have had a flight of three aircraft over my old home turf. But it wasn't to be. There was so much telephone traffic as the new millennium dawned that it was impossible to connect to the Internet!
The flight lasted fifteen minutes and was completely uneventful with visits being made to other local airfields at RAF Scampton and RAF Waddington, before a return to Coningsby. It was terminated after a successful ILS approach and landing by the intrepid pilot's wife issuing new RoE and giving new vectors back to the local millennium party.
Oh well... nostalgia's not what it used to be...