This Could Be Your Only Chance To Buy A Flyable Phantom Fighter Jet
And you thought a Bugatti was the ultimate go-fast toy!
When it comes to warbirds, the F-4 Phantom is the most advanced American fighter ever owned privately. Just one exists, an F-4D, and it belongs to the Collings Foundation which flies it occasionally for air shows and other events. But another Phantom exists in private hands that could bring the number of civilian-flown Phantoms to two—and it's for sale.
McDonnell Douglas F4H-1F Phantom Bu.145310—just the 11th Phantom built and before the aircraft got its ultimate designation of F-4—is being presented for sale by Platinum Fighters according to our friends over at Warbirdsnews.com. Supposedly the jet is the only privately owned Phantom that is capable of being restored to flying condition, of which roughly 85 percent of the work has already been done.
Only 45 F4H-1Fs were built, and they used an earlier variant of the famed J-79 turbojet than widely produced F-4 models that came after. Part of the work remaining to be done of the aircraft includes upgrading its engines, of which five are included in the sale price, to a later standard. Ejection seats also need to be activated and the jet's avionics need to be upgraded as well.
The price tag of acquiring the ultimate toy in its yet to be flyable condition? A cool $3.95M. But for that price you also get a full set of external fuel tanks and a pair of drag chutes—I don't think even Cal could do better than that!
As for the jet up for sale, it has lived a very colorful life, one that was intrinsic to the very success of the Phantom as a whole. Being just the 11th Phantom to roll out of the McDonnell Douglas plant in St. Louis—first taking to the skies in 1959, a whopping 60 years ago—the aircraft worked as part of the original development and testing cadre for the Phantom program.
It was the first jet to be modified with hardpoints and went on to drop 22 bombs during a major demonstration for the USAF at Fort Bragg, one which ended with the service deciding to purchase the Navy jet.
It was also part of a group of three Phantoms to take part in the 'Sageburner' low-altitude speed record initiative. Wartbirdnews.com describes the event as such:
"Bu.145310 was also one of three Phantom IIs selected to take part in the famous ‘Sageburner’ low altitude world air speed record attempts over a 3km course at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. Sadly the first such attempt ended in disaster on May 18th, 1961 when F4H-1F Bu.145316 experienced pitch damper failure. This lead to pilot-induced-oscillations, and due to the aircraft’s enormous speed at the time, these rapid pitch movements immediately overstressed the airframe, which experienced catastrophic structural failure and disintegrated in flight with the loss of her crew, Commander Jack L. Felsman and Ensign Raymond M. Hite, Jr. Undeterred, however, the Navy achieved their goal later that year on August 18th when Lieutenants Huntington Hardisty and Earl De Esch flew F4H-1F Bu.145307 to an average speed of 902.714mph over a 3km closed course…. all at an altitude of less than 125 feet! This aircraft is now part of the National Air & Space Museum’s collection."
The jet continued its testing and demonstration work through the fall of 1964, when it was retired with just 461 hours on its airframe. Over the next 40 years the jet was passed around from museum collection to museum collection, before ending up in the hands of Rich Wall in 2003. It's then that Aircraft Restoration Services LLC at the French Valley Airport in California began a painstakingly detailed restoration of the aircraft. They are hoping to complete the job for its new owner.
Now with the jet fairly close to be ready to take to the skies again, there has to be some very wealthy airplane nerd willing to plunk down the cash to realize their Phantom dreams.
Paul Allen of Microsoft and Vulcan Companies fame comes to mind. He already has his own air force that includes flying examples of the F-5 and maybe the world's most cherry MiG-29. Adding a Phantom to the mix only seems logical.
One does have to wonder how hard it will be to keep what is essentially a pre-production version of the F-4, with some minor differences (windscreen configuration for instance), in the air. But really it is nothing huge gobs of cash and love for going really fast can't solve.
If anything else, the new owner would be the most popular dude at Oshkosh, and you may even be able to sell the jet for more than you put into it once it's actually roaring through the twilight skies over Wisconsin.
For more on this exclusive offering, check out Platinum Fighters. Actually check them out anyway because they pretty much are a vending machine that converts your cash into realized fevered dreams. You can even buy this SAAB Draken from them and stage your own spectacular dogfights.
Contact the author: Tyler@thedrive.com