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F-4 Phantom Restorations Thread


tc2324

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The bright and sunny weekend of August 1st and 2nd saw the largest BPAG working party assembled so far recommencing work on Phantom F-4J(UK) ZE360.

 

On arrival the group was pleasantly surprised to discover that the RAF team from Manston had removed the remnants of an English Electric Canberra which had previously been resting behind ZE360. They had also cut all the long grass from around ZE360 saving the team a number of hours of work on the Saturday. The main aims for the weekend were the removal of both outer wings, the fuselage tailcone, replacing the deflated RH mainwheel and progressing access to the internal structure, which needs to be removed to separate wing and fuselage.

 

One of the major challenges of the project is the fact that the aircraft has stood outside, fairly close to the sea, for nearly three decades which is actually longer than the aircraft served in both RAF and United States Navy. Almost every single part shows some form of corrosion with stuck- fasteners, panels, connections and hinges being the most obvious and problematic. For example, it took a couple of hours of concerted effort to remove the RH outer wing as it involved lowering the leading edge flap to gain access and removing the hinge pin. Thankfully the Ulster Aviation Society had loaned the team a hinge pin puller which made a task easier. The process was also complicated by the fact you can't get hydraulic pressure to lower the flap. The LH outer wing did however came off relatively easier than the RH outer wing despite the corrosion on the hinge pin. With the removal of both outer wings, a major milestone has been achieved by the team with regards to the relocation part of the project.

Panel removal is always a tedious, unloved but vital task undertaken by the volunteers and is made exceptionally difficult owing to the aforementioned corrosion issues. It`s estimated that around 75% of all the screws removed so far have had to be drilled out. In some instances, it has been far easier to cut the panels away as the corrosion to both panel and screws has been that bad. Underneath the aircraft, the team continued panel removals and stripped out a bay containing one of the hydraulic reservoirs and subsequently removed the reservoir itself.

 

A lengthy process of jacking the aircraft up again had the RH side raised enough to lift the landing gear out of the hole to allow the successful replacement of the deflated wheel.

Transportation restrictions on the airframe when the time comes means that the stabilator has to be removed, a process which firstly requires removal of the tailcone. Once again, many screws had to be drilled out, some in the most inaccessible positions, but a combination of stoicism and some professional head scratching eventually saw the tailcone removed and placed on the floor.

 

Sunday saw the group visited on site by two of the remaining RAF personnel from Manston. This included the base commander himself as he is taking a personal interest in the project and reiterated his continued support and encouragement. As always, thanks go out to all the staff from Manston for their help and assistance on this restoration project. Also a big thank you and job well done to the volunteers, their hard work over the weekend is much appreciated - Max Archer, Peter Partridge, Alex Pinnell, Mark Coleman, Nigel Hodgson, Stuart Forth, Paul West,  Pete Moore, Clive Hammond, Paul Wright, Nathan Garrard, Matt Gilby, Stephen Cawley, Gary Fisher, John Kendal and Steven Pope.

 

(With thanks to BPAG Chairman Paul Wright for supplying the update information)

 

For more information and photos on this project, you can visit the BPAG Facebook page -

 

https://www.facebook.com/groups/bf4pag/?ref=bookmarks

 

Or visit the 74(F) Tiger Squadron Association website for the restoration blog and more photo`s of ZE360 and operational history -

 

http://74sqdn.tk/ze360-restoration-page/

 

(Photos courtesy of Nigel Hodgson)

 

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Another small yet significant event that occurred during the ZE360 working weekend a week or so ago at Manston, was the handover of the two flying helmets to the British Phantom Aviation Group.

 

These were obtained and refurbished by Paul West with the assistance of Richard Proctor and are dedicated to the memory of Flt Lt Ewan Murdoch and Fg Off Jeremy Ogg who tragically lost their lives in the only flying accident involving the Phantom F-4J(UK) in 1987.

They have been donated to the Group and after a suitable cabinet has been obtained, will be ready for display when events and gatherings are permitted once again.

 

Many thanks to Paul and Richard for their hard work and generosity.

 

(Photo`s courtesy of Nigel Hodgson)

 

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On Saturday 15th August, ZE360 was towed away from an area of waste ground, where it has sat since 2015, and back onto hardstanding elsewhere within the facility.

 

For photos and video of the event as well as a more detailed description of what went on, head over to the 74(F) Tiger Squadron Association website by clicking the link below.

 

http://74sqdn.tk/ze360-restoration-blog/

 

 

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Great updates guys....keep up the amazing work you are doing.

I would donate if I wasn't already pouring countless dollars into rebuilding an ex RAF Auster T.7 to fly again in stock military configuration.  But totally love what you are doing.  Keep up the great work (and updates).  So much work goes into what you are doing that photo's cant express.....

 

Cheers Anthony

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On 2/24/2020 at 9:40 PM, tc2324 said:

Another bonus was to make a little discovery and settle, (hopefully), an age old argument about the colour of the F-4J`s when they came out of the paintshop at North Island in the US. While removing a panel on by a aileron, we came across a part of the aircraft that obviously escaped the deep service repainting.

 

We now have a great comparison between the standard RAF air defence grey and the US mix.

 

Duck Egg Blue – Case Closed!

 

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I don't know what your eventual plans are, but if your group intends to restore this aircraft to the US made F4J(UK) colour and if that little piece is removable, I'd be happy to digitally measure it and give you precise coordinates for manufacture of fresh paint in due course. If you'd be happy to risk the part in recorded post for the round trip, of course.

 

The offer will remain open indefinitely :)

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  • 2 weeks later...

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The British Phantom Aviation Groups volunteer team were back at Manston on the Bank Holiday weekend of the 29th/31st August with the principle task being the removal of the centreline tank. When installed the tank prevents both the opening of the engine bays and any work progressing along the centre of the lower wing. Despite having been untouched for decades, the tank released as it was designed to after some great advice and clear instruction from a BPAG supporter who used to be an ex-armourer. With the tank out of the way, the team now had clear access to the engine bays doors.
Whilst this was ongoing, other team members removed the remaining speedbrake. Sadly, the corroded bolts would not give in, so the decision was made to cut way the brake from the aircraft. As with all restorations, such decisions are not taken lightly, but may be necessary to move the project along. Any such parts can and will be replaced further down the line.
Preparation work continued inside Door 22, where many of the components will have to be removed to gain access to the wingtank/front fuselage joints and disconnection of the inboard undercarriage doors was started. Highlight of the day was opening the rear most engine doors for the first time in 3 decades.
Elsewhere, the inboard leading edge occupied a lot of time and effort, corrosion having made bolt removal impossible and attempting to drill out ¼" thick bolts to a depth of up to 1" was not proving successful. Once again the decision was made to cut away the structure holding it up as it was already beyond saving owing to corrosion.
With the leading edge still refusing to drop down, further investigation and searching revealed a hidden bolt, one which is not present on British Phantom F-4K/M`s, and once removed (by drilling out, naturally) the leading edge was finally lowered down. Attention then turned to the engine doors, and despite further corrosion related problems, both Aero 27A missile launchers were removed from the underside of the aircraft, which will allow the main engine doors to be lowered on a subsequent visit. As always, many thanks to the BPAG volunteer team for their hard work and staff at DFTDC Manston for their continued assistance.

 

For more photos, descriptions and history for all things ZE360, head over to the BPAG Facebook page or the restoration blog on the 74(F) Tiger Squadron Association website. (Links below)

 

https://www.facebook.com/groups/bf4pag

 

http://74sqdn.tk/ze360-restoration-page/

 


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Credits 

Photos - Nigel Hodgson     
Words – Paul Wright
 

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  • 3 weeks later...

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The weekend of 12th and 13th September saw BPAG volunteers head back to Manston and Phantom F-4J(UK) ZE360 making further progress with stripping out systems and components inside D22. There's still a long way to go there. The front cockpit was also relieved of many of its remaining parts, including the main panel and some instruments. The latter have gone off site to be refurbished by Paul West, in his own time.

 

Elsewhere, both full sets of engine doors are now lowered and engine disconnection has started.  Both sets of lateral control runs and a plethora of hydraulic lines and electrical looms have been removed, along with the left hand leading edge BLC duct. Access was also gained to the trailing edge flap actuators and these are scheduled to be removed at the next visit.

 

As ever, it was an ongoing battle with the corrosion and lack of servicing, meaning that even simple panel removal takes much longer than it would normally.

 

More photo`s of the weekends work and information on the ZE360 restoration can be found on either the BPAG Facebook page or the restoration blog on the 74(F) Tiger Squadron Association website.

 


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  • 2 weeks later...

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The new social distancing rules and cold weather forecast meant that activity at Manston on the 26th and 27th September had to be downscaled. With just a small group present, any milestone moments or herculean efforts were unlikely, but some good headway was still made on vital smaller tasks.
Saturday saw further progress on engine disconnection, also pipework removed for access to LH wing root and RH inboard leading edge was finally lowered (without cutting) before increasingly poor weather called a stop to proceedings at 14:00.
Work persevered with undoing the electrical plugs on the engine harness on Sunday. What would have been a minute’s work when in service ended up taking around 5 hours. The RH inboard fixed leading edge removal was made up to withdrawal of the hinge pins, at which time our old friend corrosion took control and the pins refused to move. They’re currently soaking in penetrating oil, ready for next working party.

 

More photo`s of the weekends work and information on the ZE360 restoration can be found on either the BPAG Facebook page or the restoration blog on the 74(F) Tiger Squadron Association website.


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Text and main Photo - Paul Wright (BPAG)
Supporting Photos - Steve Pope (BPAG)

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  • 2 weeks later...

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The weekend of the 10th and 11th October saw the BPAG team back at Manston with ZE360. The current Covid-19 restrictions, coupled with the fact that the dismantling process is concentrated on a few small areas, meant that there could only be limited team numbers onsite. However this did not stop a very successful couple of days with good progress being made in vital areas.

 

Fuel lines, drain lines and wiring from inside Door 22 were stripped out as well as Door 22 itself removed due to the fact it overlaps the leading edge of the lower wing skin. Station 4`s missile well was also stripped out to give access to the structural connections. Various hydraulic lines and components were also cleared from above Stations 4 and 6 to facilitate access and removal of the leading edge BLC ducts.
The emergency nitrogen bottle was finally removed after dismantling further structure for access. The rear cockpit upper instrument panel was also removed and both intakes cleared of debris. Among the debris, a broken off probe from the nose of the aircraft was found which will be repaired and refitted. A missing cover plate from the nose gear bay was also found. Finally, some structure was removed inside doors 75, (left & right), that join across the wing & fuselage.

 

For more photos, descriptions and history for all things ZE360, head over to the BPAG Facebook page or the restoration blog on the 74(F) Tiger Squadron Association website. (Links below)

 

https://www.facebook.com/groups/bf4pag

 

http://74sqdn.tk/ze360-restoration-page/


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Credits

Words – Paul Wright
Photos - Tony Clay and Steve Pope

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With a majority of the recent ZE360 updates focusing on the external work to remove the engines and fuselage from the wings ready for relocation, you may not be aware that there is also other restoration work going on behind the scenes which isn't so obvious. One such project is being handled by BPAG member and Ex 74 Tiger Paul West who has been busy assessing and working on a hoard of cockpit instrument components which require restoration. The three selected photos in this post will give you an idea of the challenges faced.

 

The main picture above shows the Hydraulic System Pressure Gauge that is situated in the front cockpit.

 

The second picture below shows the Generator Master Caution Panel also situated in the front cockpit.

 

The third picture below is the Main Navigation Computer Control situated in the rear cockpit.

 

Further updates of the work carried out will be released in due course and the team extends its thanks to Paul for his work and dedication to the restoration effort.

Projects like this are never easy without the generosity of enthusiasts and therefore if you have any Phantom gauges or instruments you feel would benefit the project and you would like to donate, please contact the British Phantom Aviation Group via email - britishphantomaviationgroup@gmail.com

 

For more photos, descriptions and history for all things ZE360, head over to the BPAG Facebook page or the restoration blog on the 74(F) Tiger Squadron Association website. (Links below)

 

https://www.facebook.com/groups/bf4pag

 

http://74sqdn.tk/ze360-restoration-page/

 

 

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Photos – Paul West

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  • 2 months later...

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For many of us, including the Restoration Team, 2020 was certainly the year that wasn`t. If the pandemic had not taken hold, we would probably be reporting that the team had safely relocated ZE360 to pastures new by now. However, despite the long periods of inactivity at the beginning of the year, by the start of summer work had restarted to try and catch up with the schedule. as we now approach the end of the year, we felt that this is a good opportunity to remind you all of some of the more significant achievements that took place during a difficult 2020. 
1.    Main Undercarriage and nose wheels replaced
2.    Outer wings removed
3.    Ailerons and speed brakes removed
4.    Relocated from the grass field and onto a concrete hardstand
5.    Centre Line fuel tank removed
6.    Tailcone and Stabilator removed
7.    Engine Doors lowered and J79 engines disconnected
8.    Fuel pipework disassembled and removed
9.    Aircraft re-positioned onto the disused burn area ready for final dismantle
We must also mention the number of panels, screws and fasteners that were also removed so that the work noted above could proceed. No-one was counting let’s just say it was a lot, as well as being painfully difficult and definitely tedious work at times.  Of course, none of this could have been achieved without the ongoing assistance of the British Phantom Aviation Group’s team of volunteers who all gave up their time to work on these tasks. Their help is always greatly appreciated and quite frankly, the work undertaken thus far could not have been completed without them. Of course, as with most organisations, there are always `back room staff` whose job it is to make sure the other elements of such projects run without a hitch. These tasks can range from logistics, fundraising, marketing and PR as well as certain individuals who work on specialist items like the electronics or restoring `hardware` and other parts of airframe in their own time. 
While things have not gone entirely to schedule this year, this group of individuals have made sure that this rare airframe is finishing 2020 with a much brighter future than when she went into it and we should all look forward to what will be, no doubt, a significant New Year for Phantom F-4J(UK) ZE360, when she moves to her new home at Kemble in 2021. 

For more information or if you feel you may be able to help the restoration team in some way, click on the links below.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/bf4pag

http://74sqdn.tk/ze360-restoration-page/

Edited by tc2324
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Phabulous work, and real kudos to you all for achieving so much during this time. Hopefully 2021 will see some good progress as everyone gets vaccinated and can get back to normal. So good to see this Tiger Phantom being restored to its former glory. Fear No Man. Or virus.

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  • 1 month later...

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Yesterday, 22nd February saw the 30th anniversary of ZE360`s delivery flight from RAF Wattisham to Manston where she would take on the new role as a training aid at the resident fire training school.

The year was 1991 and the world`s attention was focused on Operation Desert Storm and the ongoing conflict in the Middle East. The retirement of the RAF`s unique F-4J(UK) Phantom fleet was to therefore come and go relatively un-noticed. The F-4J’s were being systematically dispersed to take up secondary roles, such as battle damage repair or fire training duties at various RAF airfields. The aircrews delivering them made the most of these ‘trips’ and many of the aircraft were in a clean configuration so they could attempt one final Mach 2 run. ZE360 was no different.

On the morning of the 22nd February 1991, pilot Ian Hargreaves and navigator Ray Jones departed RAF Wattisham, climbed out over The Wash and then headed into the North Sea. Once 35 nautical miles offshore, the nose was pointed south and full power applied. If it wasn’t for an intake ramp going out of phase causing the right engine to surge at approximately Mach 1.96, it’s safe to say 360 would have successfully achieved the aim of travelling at twice the speed of sound as planned. However, with little fuel remaining and lots of altitude to lose, all that remained were some rather tight turning aerobatics, eventually registering a respectable 8 on the G meter.


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In a fitting end for an aircraft designed for Naval operations (especially considering the aircraft’s previous life in service with the US Navy`s Atlantic Fleet) ZE360 landed at Manston making a cable engagement. The aircraft then self-cleared before folding the outer wings and taxiing to the designated dispersal. With the aircrew catching a lift home to Wattisham in a 22 Sqn Sea King, ZE360 was left in the hands of a team of Wattisham's ASF engineers who prepared her for her final duties while still in RAF service.

 

 

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In this anniversary year, after 30 years of decay at Manston, we are looking forward to the aircraft finally departing again, heading for Kemble, Gloucestershire, to begin the restoration process which will be the start of a much brighter future for this extremely rare aircraft.

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  • 2 months later...

With the current Covid restrictions partly lifted and the urgent need to relocate ZE360 out of the old Fire Training School at Manston before it closes, the British Phantom Aviation Group are pleased to report that the relocation to a hanger area at Manston Airport was successfully completed over the weekend of the 24th and 25th April 2021.

Here below are a selection of photos from the weekend but if you wish to know more information and see more photos, please click either one of the links below for the BPAG Facebook page or the ZE360 Restoration blog on the 74(F) Tiger Squadron Association Website.

 

https://www.facebook.com/BPAGofficial

 

http://74sqdn.tk/ze360-restoration-blog/

 

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  • 1 month later...

Good to see something happening, haven't followed this for awhile. To bad with the drones that were made all the good parts went with them. I guess there was no way to save anything from the RAF ones.

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