12/01/2022- XT597 Joystick, a recent donation.

Here is a very special recent donation to the BPAG, the relevance of which will no doubt be obvious.

This is the sticktop from XT597, which was presented to Laurie Hilditch after 597’s final flight on 28th January 1994. Laurie was pilot on that day, thereby becoming the last person to fly a Spey powered Phantom. This sortie was also navigator Jon Millo’s last flight as an RAF officer, so many things all came to an end that day.

The flight itself was actually a formal trials sortie involving air to air refuelling as part of the VC10 K4 final clearance tests and consisted of four separate refuelling brackets over the North Sea. However, the last flight of any UK F-4 could not go unmarked and the aircraft performed flypasts at Leuchars, Leeming and Coningsby in between brackets before returning to Boscombe Down for “a few gentle aerobatics” before landing for the last time, bringing the service life of British Phantoms to an end.

We are incredibly grateful to Laurie for passing this item onto us, together with everything it symbolises for UK Phantom history, and we will look forward to returning it to the cockpit from whence it came at the earliest opportunity.