Airfix 1:72 McDonnell Douglas Phantom FG.1 XT864, 111 Sqn RAF (Zapped by 43 Sqn) Armament Training camp (APC) RAF Akrotiri 1988

Airfix 1:72 McDonnell Douglas Phantom FG.1 XT864, 111 Sqn RAF (Zapped by 43 Sqn) Armament Practice Camp (APC) RAF Akrotiri 1988

The Aircraft

XT864 started her life on her 1st flight on 5th April 1968 and was delivered to the Royal Navy on 17th July the same year. If the serial sounds familiar it is actually featured on the front of the box of the new 1:72 Airfix FG.1 Phantom as “007” of 892Sqn being catapulted off the HMS Ark Royal.

When the Royal Navy got rid of its carrier fleet, XT864 was transferred into the RAF to the “The Tremblers” (111Sqn) at RAF Leuchars.

As far as I can tell the aircraft had a fairly unremarkable time progressing through the normal camo and grey schemes as she aged. Until 1988….

On the yearly Armament Practice Camp (APC) (the re-certification programme designed to keep RAF pilots up to proficiency firing live weapons held at RAF Akrotiri) was close to the end a heavy landing resulted in damage and the aircraft was therefor left behind when 111Sqn returned to the UK until it could be fixed or recertified and a recovery crew sent to then retrieve it.

Unfortunately the following week, 43Sqn (111Sqn’s “base mates” at RAF Leuchars also flying FG.1s) were scheduled to do their ACT… Their ground crew on finding a stranded 111Sqn bird on their line broke out the paint brushes and summarily redecorated the tail with a stylised “Fighting Cock” and painted on white checks over 111Sqn’s black bar on the RWR receiver on the top of the tail (probably a different “artist” did each side as the pattern varies between port and starboard).

After being cleared for one final flight home on 3rd November 1988 (flown by a 43Sqn crew of pilot John Jupp with Nigel Marks as the navigator taking 5hrs 50mins and 8 in flight refuels), the CO was said to be less than impressed by 43Sqn’s artistic endeavors, and had the crew responsible rounded up and made to clean off their “art”. As the Phantom was due to be retired in about a year after the accident it was decided not to repair the aircraft and it was written off on 6th December.

This isn’t quite the end of the road as the aircraft was then turned into the gate guardian for RAF Leuchars , initially in 111 Sqn colours and then later (proving fate does indeed have a sense of irony) in 43Sqn colours!

With the cessation of QRA operations from the base in 2014 when they were moved to RAF Lossiemouth the future for XT864 looked grim until the Ulster Aviation Society stepped in and rescued her.

She is now part of the Ulster Aviation Society’s display in Maze Long Kesh in Northern Ireland. As of the start of 2018, XT864 is being restored into her original 892Sqn Royal Navy colours to complete the circle.

The Kit

For many years the Fujimi 1:72 British Phantoms have ruled the roost for the place to go for the FG.1 and FGR.2 variants. When Airfix announced in late 2016 they were to produce a new tool of the FG.1 there was an incredible amount of interest (The Fugimi kits, although superb, had been around since 1987 – with an update 2 years later). I don’t think there are many disappointed people around!!

Yes, there are a couple of errors, the vents above and below the shoulder of the intake are missing as are some just ahead of the exhaust (curable with a decal at this scale). Without getting into a long list of “rivet counting” details, this kit definitely produced a better FG.1 than the older Fujimi tooling and at present is a few £ cheaper. Hannants have celebrated the launch of the kit with EIGHT decal sheets covering the British Phantoms (although they do neglect to mention that the “Ripple” scheme F4 – 2 versions – had a different radome fitted to that in the kit).

And FGR.2 is slated to be released later in 2018which looking at the options should bring later air-to-air missiles, a gun pod and a recon load out, all of which are obviously not included in the Navy FG.1 boxing.