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Phantom jet takes off for trip to Northern Ireland

By Christopher Woodhouse

Published 16/06/2015

The dismantled Phantom jet makes its way from RAF Leuchars in Scotland to its new base in Northern Ireland
The dismantled Phantom jet makes its way from RAF Leuchars in Scotland to its new base in Northern Ireland
The dismantled Phantom jet makes its way from RAF Leuchars in Scotland to its new base in Northern Ireland
The dismantled Phantom jet makes its way from RAF Leuchars in Scotland to its new base in Northern Ireland

After weeks of painstaking work, a supersonic relic of the Cold War is about to make Northern Ireland its new base.

Volunteers from the Ulster Aviation Society have spent many hours dismantling a McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom at an RAF base in Scotland.

"It's definitely been one of the most demanding tasks we've faced in our remit to preserve the aviation history of Northern Ireland," said Ray Burrows, chairman of the Ulster Aviation Society.

The society's volunteers had to learn how take apart the 10-ton supersonic jet at RAF Leuchars by a process of trial and error.

"We couldn't find anyone in the UK who had actually done this before," said Mr Burrows.

Nearly 170 Phantoms served with the RAF and Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm during the 1960s and 1970s.

The 75ft-long fighter bomber left Scotland on the back of a lorry on Sunday for the journey to the society's base at the former RAF Long Kesh station, near Lisburn, Co Antrim.

"Time was when the Phantom could cover that distance from Scotland in a few minutes, at over 1,000 miles an hour," said Mr Burrows.

It's not the first time the aircraft has visited Northern Ireland as Mr Burrows said: "Every Phantom of the RAF and the Royal Navy came to RAF Aldergrove at one time or another for repairs, repainting or upgrading by 23 Maintenance Unit in the late 1060s and early 1970s."

The actual mating of wings and fuselage, together with smaller components, will take place during the autumn and winter as a special cradle needed for assembly will not be ready until later this year.

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