On the 29th of June 2013 the inevitable farewell of the F-4F Phantom in the German Luftwaffe was to take place on Wittmund. One day prior a spottersday was organised by JG 71 'Richthofen'. Three generations and Rob planned a short trip to Wittmund with a overnight stay at 'Gasthaus Sobottka' situated in the small town off Middels, just one mile down the runway. First we attented the spottersday on the 28th. The spotters (actually 3,000 spotters were invited from all over the world) were to parc their cars in some meadows on the westside of the base. Bad idea ! The weather was just terrible and because of the heavy rain (you could say the sky was also crying on this day) the cars got stuck in the mud. After an one hour wait several busses picked us up for a one mile drive to the airfield. The bus dropped us off on the westside of the airbase. With still heavy rain it was impossible to take good pics but I tried anyway.

First subjects were a German Airbus A-319 (15+02) belonging to the FBS, a German C-160D (50+82) belonging to LTG-63 and a German Navy Orion (60+05). After photographing those planes we walked down the taxiway to the shelterarea of the Richthofen Wing. Put on display in front of their shelters were the reasons of these two special days. All F-4's with special liveries were parcked in front of their shelters. 37+01 with it's blue and golden colours ('First in last out'), 38+13 with it's black and yellow checkerboards ('Don't let me die I want to fly'), the 38+33 in Norm81 colours and the 38+10 in the first German colourscheme Norm72 (actually the 38+10 and the 38+33 did the Last Stampede of the Rhino on the 17th of June).

More Phantoms were displayed like the 37+15 belonging to WTD-61 with a special sensorpod under it's portside wing, the 38+28 inside it's shelter, and the 38+48, 37+22 and 38+37. These Phantoms were off course in the latest Luftwaffe colourscheme Norm90. Furthermore several German Tornadoes, a British Hawk, Belgian F-16's, British Tornadoes and several German Eurofighters were present. Also some choppers were on the scene. A very nice moment was the arrival of two Spanish Hornets belonging to Ala12 stationed at Torrejon. I also ran into a few old 'phriends' this day who didn't spot planes in years anymore emphasising the legendary status of the Phantom.

Although it rained all day we stayed till the end and were one of the last to leave the airbase. The people from the Richthofenwing did an incredible job by organising such a great event. And it wasn't over yet. The best was yet to come the next day at the official 'Phly out'. We took the bus back to the parking and I hoped we weren't stuck in the mud with our car. But that wasn't the case and so we drove the whole distance of about 0,5 miles (!) to our pension 'Gasthaus Sobottka' in Middels. The food and our rooms were just great ! Were on earth can you get a warm meal with all kinds of meat, potatoes and red cabbage for just eight Euros !! With a few Konig beers thrown in we went to bed.

We slept a little bit longer in the morning as the weatherforecast said rain all morning and dry moments with some spells of sun in the afternoon. After our breakfast we left Middels for the Open House at Wittmund. But while sitting in the car we took the decision to position ourselves alongside the fence outside the airbase. That's were you have the sun in your back so no backlight. First we stood in the middle of the runway were we took some pics of the really old planes like a Boeing Stearman, Yak-52 and Buncker Jungman which were flying their displays. After the display of the German Bo-105 and A-4N N432FS (with arrested hooklanding !) we thought it would be a better idea to photograph the fast jets programmed for the afternoon at the end of the runway. This turned out to be a very good decision !

In the afternoon 4 F-4's took to the sky. They were met by 2 Eufi's which came from Norvenich. The six aricraft made a few flypasts and the EF2000's landed on the Wittmund tarmac. Then the four Phantoms did some very spectaculair passes and some very nice formations. With the 37+01 landing all four Phantoms simultaneously shutted down their engines and thus marking the end of Phantom operations within the Luftwaffe.

The Richthofengeschwader and the German Luftwaffe did an excellent job of organising these two days and deserve all the credits for pulling off a worthy "pharewell' to the Phabulous Phantom. Many thanks for that !!


Phantoms Phorever !!!