F4 Phantom II Carries Personal Touch at Palm Springs Air Museum

Fuselage bears late commander's name thanks to his squadron's fundraiser



The final Open Cockpit event of the summer Aug. 24 lets visitors to the Palm Springs Air Museum climb into an F4 Phantom II.

Courtesy of Palm Springs Air Museum

Aviation and history buffs will have a rare opportunity to sit behind the controls of the F4 Phantom II from 1-3 p.m. Aug. 24 as the Palm Springs Air Museum hosts its final “Open Cockpit” event.

Currently on loan from the U.S. Navy, this particular Phantom fighter jet will not fly (the engine has been removed), but it has special significance to the museum. Naval Commander Wayne “Deacon” Connel was not only the captain of a squadron that actually flew this type of jet during the Vietnam War, he was a volunteer docent in the museum’s Pacific Hanger.

Upon his passing, Connel’s squadron alumnae came together to raise money to cosmetically restore this particular F4 Phantom II. 

According to Bill Hughes, volunteer coordinator with the Palm Springs Air Museum, “When the VF161 Squadron said they wanted to honor their former Commander by donating the money to fully repaint the plane with the markings, lettering, and numbers to reflect their squadron, we could not have picked a better person than one of our own volunteers. Wayne was a modest man with an outstanding career and now this plane has his name on the fuselage.”

Why this jet is unique
• The F4 Phantom II was originally developed for the U.S. Navy entering service in 1960.
• The F4 was the last U.S. fighter jet to attain Ace status in the 20th Century, a distinction given to a plane that destroyed at least five enemy aircraft in air-to-air combat.

What’s in a name?

Monikers “Satan” and “Mithras” were scrapped for the less controversial name, “Phantom II”, named after another McDonnell Douglas fighter, the FH-1 Phantom.

Faster than Usain Bolt?
The F4 Phantom II set 16 world records during its time:
• Maintaining sustained altitudes
• Time to altitude speed
• “Zoom climbs”
• Cross continental U.S. flight achieved less than three hours including refueling.
• Also set five speed records which were unbeaten until 1975 with the emergence of the F-15 Eagle.

If You Go
Wear comfortable clothing suited for climbing into a plane. Docents will be on hand to answer questions and related films will be shown in the Buddy Rogers Theater on site. Open Cockpit Saturday is included with regular museum admission.

Palm Springs Air Museum, 745 N. Gene Autry Trail, Palm Springs, 760-778-6262, www.palmspringsairmuseum.org

Add your comment:
Edit Module
Desert Guide
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Related Articles

Unstoppable Mickey Gilley Still Has Stories to Share at Stagecoach

Country legend Mickey Gilley is still on the road telling his life story featuring a 17 hit-song career, and the 79-year-old will stop when they put him “in that box.”

Lilly Pulitzer for Target Home Collection to Hit Greater Palm Springs Stores

With the countdown underway to the Lilly for Target launch in the wee hours of April 19, it’s time to make your prioritized selections from the official Lookbook and create an action plan.

Soukie Modern Clutch Handbags Compliment Coachella Fest Scene

Soukie Modern, the company that launched a boutique line of imported vintage Moroccan rugs and home goods, has expanded its line to include one-of-a-kind handbags perfect for this year’s Coachella Music Festival scene.

ZZ Top's Return to Stagecoach Reinforces Love of Desert, Country Music Roots

ZZ Top guitarist and vocalist Billy F Gibbons may be the leader of one of the most famous and most successful little ol’ rock bands from Texas, but he’s also planted some deep, deep roots in Palm Springs.

Open Call Gives Greater Palm Springs Area Talent a Chance to Shine

Kaitlyn Farley knew music was her calling from a young age, but opportunities like the annual Open Call at the McCallum Theatre took that passion to another level.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Promotions + Contests

2014/15 Best of the Best

2014/15 Best of the Best

Palm Springs Life’s annual Best of the Best. Readers tell us who their choice is for the “Best of the Best” of the Coachella Valley in over 40 categories.
GuestLife Magical Monterey Bay Experience

GuestLife Magical Monterey Bay Experience

Pets on Parade 2015 Photo Contest

Pets on Parade 2015 Photo Contest

Enter your “Cutest Pet” photo in the Pets on Parade 2015 Photo Contest. Online users will be able to like the Cutest Pet photos from six (6) categories.
Cartoon Caption Contest

Cartoon Caption Contest

Each month, we provide a vintage 1950’s cartoon illustrated by Alice Rovinsky. You are invited to submit a caption or vote for your favorite caption.
Edit ModuleShow Tags