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

Events for the Kid in You

The Coachella Valley comes alive during the holidays with fun activities that cater to children of all ages.

12 Ways to Make Your Holiday Merrier

From concerts and cabaret to musicals and ballet, these events make the holidays in the Coachella Valley even more special.

These Gifts Keep Giving

A new exhibition reveals the treasures and trinkets the Annenbergs amassed as the world’s elite visited 
their idyllic Sunnylands estate.

A Tale of Two Stages

Two Coachella Valley theater companies, CVRep and Dezart Performs, have carved distinctive niches in the local arts scene and this season will punctuate their strengths with compelling schedules.

The War Comes Homes

Jennifer Karady: In County, Soldiers’ Stories From Iraq and Afghanistan serves up striking photos that restage service members’ most pivotal, often traumatic moments from the war.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Promotions + Contests

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.
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.
Edit ModuleShow Tags