Phantom Returns to Wattisham

Under the cover of darkness a Phantom slipped back in to Wattisham, two decades after the aircraft took off from the base for the last time.

Phantom XT914 was one of the last RAF planes to be based at Wattisham before the station was handed over to the Army in 1993.

The aircraft had stood as a gate guardian at RAF Brampton, Cambs, but with the station’s closure in 2013, XT914 is coming back to Wattisham for refurbishment before going on display at the Wattisham Heritage Museum.

The Phantom arrived at Wattisham on 8th March after being moved from RAF Brampton on the back of a lorry by the Joint Aircraft Recovery and Transportation Squadron. Troops from 7 Air Asslt Btln REME lifted the aircraft into one of Wattisham’s Cold War-era Hardened Aircraft Shelters, where volunteers from Wattisham Airfield Heritage Group will work on it.

Sqn Ldr Paul Tuite, OC Ops and Trg at RAF Brampton, Wyton, Henlow, said: “Although It’s a sad day for RAF Brampton, its good news for the Phantom X914, which will return to its home unit to be lovingly refurbished. The Phantom has been a focal point for both RAF Brampton personnel and the local community. Its departure really does mark the start of the Station’s closure.”

Maggie Aggiss, chair of the heritage group, said: “I would like to thank all who have worked so hard to get XT914 back to Wattisham. It made a very dramatic return in the dead of night and it was almost surreal to see the aircraft back almost 20 years to the day that it left. There is a lot of hard work ahead to refurbish the aircraft, with the aim being to return it to the special livery it wore when it flew out of Wattisham for the last time.”

Wattisham’s 74 (Tiger) and 56 (Firebirds) Squadrons had been the last units to operate the Phantom and XT914 flew displays painted with the colours of both squadrons to celebrate the fighter jet’s retirement from the RAF in 1992. After its last flight, the aircraft was saved from the scrap yard to stand as a gate guardian at RAF Leeming, North Yorks, and then at RAF Brampton.

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