The sky was crying tears for the Phantom Pharewell event at Wittmund airbase. With initially nearly winter weather the last week-end in June was the date for the officially last days of Luftwaffe F-4F Phantom operations and celebrated with an Open Doors day.
Where? Wittmund, Germany
Several months of preparation showed well all the efforts that went into these celebrations: “Retro scheme” Phantoms in Norm 72 “38+10” and Norm 81 “38+33” camouflage were revealed in the months preceding this event, and the special coloured Phantom in blue/gold “37+01” – the first F-4F to join the first Luftwaffe wing and also the last one to land in Wittmund that day – was also ready early enough to be celebrated at some other events before the show at Wittmund.
In a “Final Stampede” about two weeks the two Retro Scheme furthermore paid tribute to the former Luftwaffe airfields operating the F-4F Phantom by doing a round trip all around Germany.
For the Pharewell Event itself a Spotters Day was organized on Friday afternoon. Around 3000 enthusiasts clearly showed the huge interest and despite the awful weather the atmosphere was actually quite good. Many special schemes of the Luftwaffe and foreign nations were present as well as the main acts for the flying display the next day were well placed in front of the shelters without any barriers disturbing the view.
Despite the phour Phantoms of JG71 “Richthofen” the Phinal Phantom of WTD61 was the highlight on the ground, sporting an elegant scheme combining the “orange” test colour with black, the colour of mourning.
Furthermore special tails on Belgian F-16s, a Spanish F/A-18, the Luftwaffe AG51 “Tiger” Tornado, JG73 “Steinhoff” Eurofighter and an A-4 Skyhawk along the shelter area were great to see. But what a shame the weather did not cooperate!
During the show day itself on June 29th it was more about the enjoy the atmosphere, to do some shopping and meet old friends of the Phantom community. The cloud layer was still hanging very low, all the aircraft were fenced of tightly, and strong winds prevented some of the older aircraft to even take-off. Apart from some biplanes only the BAe Systems A-4 Skyhawk – usually used as a target towing aircraft and somehow the biggest rarity in the air – made many people rush towards the fence.
Fortunately around midday the weather gods finally sympathized with the crowd and it cleared up. Just in time for the final minutes of Luftwaffe Phantom action.
The flying consisted of some formation fly-bys, a pass together with two Eurofighters of JaboG31 “Boelcke”, which will join with JG71 “Richthofen” for the Eurofighter operations, and towards the end low passes and touch and goes thrilled the crowed.
After the final landing of 37+01, which was the first Phantom of the Luftwaffe and the last to land at Wittmund, all aircraft taxied in front of the crowd to make sure that everyone on the airfield was able to hear and feel this charismatic aircraft for a last time.
What remains to say? Of course the variety of the flying display cannot be compared with other major airshows, but on the other side the event was centred on the Phantom and the final low passes will stay in the memories phorever. It was good to be there, thanks for all setting up this great show. It was a fitting tribute to the last smoker on the European sky,
Phantom … Pharewell!!