Bob Daniels was a restoration volunteer at The Coltishall Cockpits Collection, back in the early 2000s. Here he recalls the arrival and subsequent preservation work performed on the cockpit section of FGR.2 XV426.
I got involved with Mick Jennings at Coltishall when he needed help with his F6 Lightning cockpit. He is a very persuasive man. I agreed but jokingly said it was on condition of getting a Phantom cockpit next. Now, Mick likes a challenge and with a glint in his eye he agreed.
Some months later he gave me a list of Phantoms that were up for disposal next and said “which one do you want?” I chose XV426 as it was a decoy at Coningsby and I had heard that John Allison, the AOC of 11 Group, had ensured his decoys spent a lot of time in the hangars! Also 426 was on 56(F) when I got there in 1979 and after a stint as the OCU display jet and time in the Falklands it came back home to 56(F) where it stayed until the end. One lunch time Mick came up to me and said “I`ve got something for you”. We went outside and there was a 40 foot trailer with the cockpit of XV426 on it.
We decided to strip everything out that wouldn`t be seen to save weight and make it easier to treat the internal structure with wax oil. It would have been nice to leave 6L and 6R intact but with no quick release catches on the panels it would not have been practical. We modified some pipes to use an external nitrogen supply to open and close the canopies and the refuel probe. For those who have spent time in door 22- you would not believe how much space is in there when it is empty. Andy, a young guy from station workshops designed and fabricated the stand which bolts on to the wing attachment points and the nose leg mounting bracket. The original nose door was replaced with a surplus FG.1 door and cut to accommodate the stand.
The paint scheme had to be 56(F) Squadron as those of us on the team who had worked Phantoms were ex- 56/Wattisham. We wanted it catch the eye which was why we added the red around the canopies and the sharks mouth and put a gloss finish on it. When Graham and Damien were stripping back the paint, they unearthed the old 31 Squadron markings but I was unable to get a photograph before they had taken it back to bare metal. It also showed up the flush repair on the left hand side of the cockpit which was done by Brian West at RAF Stanley in 1983 after one of the support beams in the rubb (rubber clad temporary shelter) swung down just missing someone`s head and putting a hole in the side of the cockpit. In the left-hand intake are the names of the team from ASF who decommissioned it at Coningsby with the legend `THE LAST 25 TONS OF SCREAMING DEATH` this was masked over and retained. The crew names on the canopies were all former 56(F) Phantom Phlyers. The finishing touch was to have the Spook on the back along with the history of the Phantom in RAF service.
Note- The XV426 cockpit section formed part of the RAF Coltishall Cockpit Collection until the base was closed in 2006. It then moved to the City of Norwich Aviation Museum where it is now on display.