Thunder & Lightnings

McDonnell-Douglas/BAC F-4K/M Phantom II - Survivor XT597

FG.1 XT597 - British Phantom Aviation Group, Cotswold Airport, Kemble, Gloucestershire

Click for previous survivorSurvivor imageClick for next survivor

Phantom FG.1 XT597 at Cotswold Airport, 30th June 2024; Jake Wallace

XT597 first flew on the 1st of November 1966 and spent her entire life on various trials work, including the initial carrier suitability trials on USS Coral Sea. Moving from the MoD(PE) to the A&AEE, she became a laboratory aircraft from 1974 onwards and had the long nose probe fitted then. She was used as a high-speed chase and calibration aircraft and on retirement (as the last Spey-powered F-4) was earmarked for lightning strike trials.

After retirement, XT597 was donated to the Boscombe Down museum where she was one of the star exhibits, unfortunately, the museum's plans to open to the public on a regular basis were stymied by the MoD bureaucracy and with a massive increase in rent. The collection moved out and had to leave the F-4 behind.

Efforts to get her to Bruntingthorpe and return her to ground running condition were sabotaged and she became one of the first F-4s to be disposed of to Everett Aero (in November 2012), who then moved her to storage at Bentwaters.

Mark Abbott, who is apart of the British Phantom Aviation Group(BPAG) acquired the airframe in late 2019 and had it moved to Wymeswold where it was to form the centrepiece of a new museum. However, plans soon changed with BPAG publicly announced in 2020 that they were relocating to Cotswold Airport (formerly RAF Kemble) with 3 Phantoms.

XT597 was transported by road to Cotswold Airport on the evening of 21st July 2021 where it joined XT905. Both aircraft sat on one of the airfield's former taxiways, awaiting re-assembly for some time. By mid-2023, both airframes were moved and placed undercover in the groups new RUBB where restoration began. However, just a year later, XT597 was pulled outside and was reunited with its wings for the first time in 5 or so years. Although its appearance does appear sad, the airframe is currently undergoing large restoration works with the group to help preserve the aircraft for many more years to come!

The aircraft is currently publicly viewable, situated within BPAG's compound situated to the right of the Bristol Britannia.

You can follow the group's progress on the restorations here.

Information on this page current as of 30/06/2024, last updated by Jake

Find other photos of XT597 on the following sites:

Air-Britain - - - - - -