On Thursday 28 February 2019, Group Captain David Baron, the Museum’s Chairman, celebrated the 50th anniversary of his first flight in Tangmere’s Phantom FGR2, XV408.
The first Phantom FGR2 (XT891 was delivered to No 228 Operational Conversion Unit (OCU) on 23 August 1968. Between then and the end of the year, a steady flow of aircraft followed with OCU staff familiarising themselves with this new flying machine in preparation for the arrival of the first official Phantom conversion course. Comprising 13 pilots (including one Flt Lt David Baron) and 13 navigators, No 1 Course began on 28 November and undertook 3 weeks of ground school in December before subsequently entered the flying phase in early January.
The next two months were blighted by poor aircraft serviceability and daily mist and fog. Such was the dearth of course flying that at the end of February it was decided to detach 8 aircraft and crews to RAF Valley where advantage could be taken of more favourable weather conditions.Accordingly, on the morning of 28 February, 8 crews awaited individual aircraft being declared serviceable whereupon one by one they were dispatched to North Wales. It was 20.00 hrs before David and his navigator, Gay Horning, were allocated the sixth Phantom, XV408 – they took off into the night an hour later and, crucially, arrived at Valley before the Officers’ Mess bar closed.
Fifty years on and, after many more adventures, XV408 now poses splendidly in the colours of No 92 Squadron in retirement at her permanent home.