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