FGR.2 XT905 has had its share of bad luck and ignominy since first entering service in 1968. Considering this record, it is remarkable that it still survives relatively intact, although this was only made possible by an eleventh hour intervention by the BPAG. Unlike the rest of the BPAG’s inventory, it does not have an unusual or illustrious history and as such could be considered just a ‘standard’ FGR.2 but it gained a special role when joining the BPAG collection, as it means that the Group now have an example of each mark of Phantom operated by the UK armed forces.
XT905 arrived at 23MU at Aldergrove, NI during October 1968 and was subsequently issued to 228OCU at RAF Coningsby a month later. It underwent the first of its mishaps in May 1970 when, during a low level training sortie, it either suffered a bird strike or struck a tree. Reports differ but it is generally accepted that the latter is the truth and the former is the official explanation.
The aircraft was back with the OCU following repair and at various points throughout the 1970s also formed part of both 17 and 31 Sqns before returning to the OCU in 1977. The next incident occurred in October 1981, when the nose wheel gear failed to extend on landing at Coningsby forcing the aircraft back into repair for the second time.
As part of the process of retiring the Phantom fleet, the OCU disbanded in early 1991 and XT905 was transferred to 74 Sqn at RAF Wattisham. Following this unit’s disbandment in Oct 1992, XT905 was moved back to RAF Coningsby for decoy duties and storage and then onwards to North Luffenham in May 2000 for use as a training aid until eventually disposed of in 2013.
Despite now being in a somewhat dilapidated state, aircraft brokers Everett Aero offered it for public sale but by 2019 a buyer had still not come forward and the aircraft was slated to be broken up for scrap and parting out. However, this news reached Paul Wright, Chairman of the BPAG, before the process could begin and realising that it may be the last chance the Group would get to obtain a complete FGR.2 (as well as having a personal connection with the aircraft as a former member of 228OCU) he personally backed an offer for the aircraft, which was accepted.
So, on 24th October 2019, XT905 was moved into temporary storage at Prestwold, Leicestershire. Unfortunately the Covid-19 pandemic forced a change in long term plans for the BPAG’s aircraft and a new home was instead found at Cotswold Airport, Gloucestershire. Therefore, XT905 moved once more, arriving at Cotswold Airport on 29th June 2021. The aircraft is currently stored on site while the BPAG prepare their new premises, where the restoration of all their aircraft is scheduled to begin at the earliest opportunity. Plans for XT905 are to revert to its classic 1970’s camouflage with 228OCU markings.
Above- XT905 arriving at Costwold Airport, June 2021.