Belgian Air Force Demo Team 2012
   Text: Serge Van Heertum - Pictures: Serge Van Heertum, Laurent Cuvelier, Bruno Ghils & Jacky Vincent  sbap 2013
We have been talking about it for a long time, but finally the day has
arrived. The mystical Phantom is leaving the ranks of the Luftwaffe for once
and for all. This honor goes to the JG71 "Richthofen", based in Wittmund, in
north Germany. We won't elaborate on the history behind the
JG71 here, another article of SBAP was already written on that subject some
months ago, and can be consulted through the below link:
http://www.sbap.be/events/2012/029wittmund2012/029wittmund2012.htm
The Luftwaffe and the men of JG71wanted to make this day memorable in a
grand way, by opening the doors of Wittmund airbase, and letting the
enthusiasts and residents participate, who have been hearing the sound of
the General Electric J79 for 40 years, but especially have been seeing the
thick, black smoke trails left behind by this mythical twin jet-engined
plane, originating in Saint-Louis, Missouri. Exhibited for two days, the
event started on the 28th of June for a spotters day, unfortunately with
weather not fit for a photographer to be outside. The 29th of june, the base
opened its doors at 7.00h and at first, the visitors were welcomed by a very
unpleasant drizzle, who luckily gave way to some sunrays during the
remainder of the day. A long walk through the base gave a rewarding look at
several beautiful machines on static display, with several special
decorations. Along the course, all kinds of stands allowed for a snack, or
quenching your thirst, while others provided badges and other aeronautical
memorabilia. The most frequent stand was the one where you could obtain all
sorts of gadgets, from a coffee cup, or a book about the history of the
Phantom at JG71, and even keychains, or scale models.
The general public started to gather by the fences as the day advanced,
making sure they wouldn't miss a thing. Around noon, several passes by a
Boeing Stearman, a yak 52 and a MBB 105 were made. The JG51 wearing the
glorious name "Richthofen" was about the fly a red triplane, but a very
strong wind inhibited that flight. The surprise act of the day was without a
doubt an A-4N Skyhawk of BAE Systems, based at Wittmund. After several
passings, an emergency landing procedure was initiated, following a landing
gear problem.

The A-4N landed on the other side of the runway, to execute an arresting hook landing. Simply impressive! Was this an exercise, or a true procedure, nobody knows.
After a break, the grand moment was there! Four Phantoms, of which three were decorated, did a long, long taxi alongside the audience. Then they took off, to do a combination of formation and solo passes. Let's not forget that demonstrations are prohibited in Germany, since the catastrophe of Ramstein. The Phantom "Phormation" was then rejoined by two Typhoons, the new "spearheads" of the Luftwaffe. The two Typhoons wore the colors of the "Boelke" squadron. After that, the Typhoons,
and three of the Phantoms landed. The 38-01 stayed in the air a little longer, for some last passes. With the landing of the blue-gold bird, it marked the last Phantom landing in Germany as well. The four planes taxied one last time, to park themselves right in front of the audience. After exiting their planes under loud applause, the pilots and navigators were met by the Luftwaffe authorities, colleagues from the base, and some veterans to be congratulated for being the last "Phantom Drivers".
A truly intimate moment of friendship, captured on film as remembrance. This was the end of the colorful commemoration, another page of aviation history is turned.
"Pharewell Phantom", we will never forget your specific gullwing!
Many thanks to the JG71 for this day and particularly for the press team for their kind invitation.

First in, Last out...a profile by Alexander Vandenbohede
Aerial view of Wittmund (Google map) Some pictures of the facilities (Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum) (Serge Van Heertum)
(Serge Van Heertum) and the Feldwachter by (Bruno Ghils)
Go to the static, click on picture Go to the Phantom Pharewell, click on the picture

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