12th – 13th September 2020
29th – 31st August 2020
The British Phantom Aviation Groups volunteer team were back at Manston on the Bank Holiday weekend of the 29th/31st August with the principle task being the removal of the centreline tank. When installed the tank prevents both the opening of the engine bays and any work progressing along the centre of the lower wing. Despite having been untouched for decades, the tank released as it was designed to after some great advice and clear instruction from a BPAG supporter who used to be an ex-armourer. With the tank out of the way, the team now had clear access to the engine bays doors.
Whilst this was ongoing, other team members removed the remaining speedbrake. Sadly, the corroded bolts would not give in, so the decision was made to cut way the brake from the aircraft. As with all restorations, such decisions are not taken lightly, but may be necessary to move the project along. Any such parts can and will be replaced further down the line.
Preparation work continued inside Door 22, where many of the components will have to be removed to gain access to the wing-tank/front fuselage joints and disconnection of the inboard undercarriage doors was started. Highlight of the day was opening the rear most engine doors for the first time in 3 decades.
Elsewhere, the inboard leading edge occupied a lot of time and effort, corrosion having made bolt removal impossible and attempting to drill out ¼” thick bolts to a depth of up to 1″ was not proving successful. Once again the decision was made to cut away the structure holding it up as it was already beyond saving owing to corrosion.
With the leading edge still refusing to drop down, further investigation and searching revealed a hidden bolt, one which is not present on British Phantom F-4K/M`s, and once removed (by drilling out, naturally) the leading edge was finally lowered down.
Attention then turned to the engine doors, and despite further corrosion related problems, both Aero 27A missile launchers were removed from the underside of the aircraft, which will allow the main engine doors to be lowered on a subsequent visit.
As always, many thanks to the BPAG volunteer team for their hard work and staff at DFTDC Manston for their continued assistance.
Photos – Nigel Hodgson
Words – Paul Wright
15th – 16th August 2020
The British Phantom Aviation Group and the 74 Squadron Association are pleased to announce that another milestone in the preservation effort has been reached. On Saturday 15th August, ZE360 was towed away from an area of waste ground, where it has sat since 2015, and back onto hardstanding elsewhere within the facility.
This event had been delayed by the current Covid-19 pandemic, when work at the site was forced to cease for four months, and follows the recent replacement of the main wheels and nose wheels by the BPAG engineering team, which allowed movement of the aircraft to be attempted. The relocation to hard, level ground will now allow access for engine removal apparatus and once this process is complete, permit entry to the inner fuselage area to commence the wing/fuselage split.
A jubilant Paul Wright (BPAG Chairman) commented “Saturday was a major milestone in 360’s journey back to full restoration. I’d like to thank everyone who contributed in any way to the day’s event. There were potentially so many things that could have gone wrong but didn’t and the challenges that arose during the move were met with calm efficiency by the team”.
The rest of the weekend would inevitably be overshadowed by Saturday morning’s achievement but that does not mean that what the team got finished through the rest of the day and into Sunday is in any way less vital. More progress on leading edge flaps and panel removal and the stabilator has finally been detached too. The RH hydraulic reservoir was also taken out, which is necessary to access the ring mounting bolts. CL tank is still stubbornly hanging on but that should hopefully be sorted on the next visit.
Many thanks to the weekend`s team Paul Wright, Paul West, Stephen Steven Pope, Paddy Forrest, Mark Copeland, Andy Bradley, Peter Pete Clapham, Jake Clapham, Tony Clay, Adrian Vines, Mike Davey, Nigel Hodgson, Ryan Luscombe, Max Archer and Pete Moore
Our gratitude also goes out to the officers and staff of DFTDC whose unstinting support for this project has been one of the major contributing factors for us getting this far.
(Pictures and video by Tony Clay)
10th August 2020
1st – 2nd August 2020
The bright and sunny weekend of August 1st and 2nd saw the largest BPAG working party assembled so far recommencing work on Phantom F-4J(UK) ZE360.
On arrival the group was pleasantly surprised to discover that the RAF team from Manston had removed the remnants of an English Electric Canberra which had previously been resting behind ZE360. They had also cut all the long grass from around ZE360 saving the team a number of hours of work on the Saturday. The main aims for the weekend were the removal of both outer wings, the fuselage tailcone, replacing the deflated RH mainwheel and progressing access to the internal structure, which needs to be removed to separate wing and fuselage.
One of the major challenges of the project is the fact that the aircraft has stood outside, fairly close to the sea, for nearly three decades which is actually longer than the aircraft served in both RAF and United States Navy. Almost every single part shows some form of corrosion with stuck- fasteners, panels, connections and hinges being the most obvious and problematic. For example, it took a couple of hours of concerted effort to remove the RH outer wing as it involved lowering the leading edge flap to gain access and removing the hinge pin. Thankfully the Ulster Aviation Society had loaned the team a hinge pin puller which made a task easier. The process was also complicated by the fact you can’t get hydraulic pressure to lower the flap. The LH outer wing did however came off relatively easier than the RH outer wing despite the corrosion on the hinge pin. With the removal of both outer wings, a major milestone has been achieved by the team with regards to the relocation part of the project.
Panel removal is always a tedious, unloved but vital task undertaken by the volunteers and is made exceptionally difficult owing to the aforementioned corrosion issues. It`s estimated that around 75% of all the screws removed so far have had to be drilled out. In some instances, it has been far easier to cut the panels away as the corrosion to both panel and screws has been that bad. Underneath the aircraft, the team continued panel removals and stripped out a bay containing one of the hydraulic reservoirs and subsequently removed the reservoir itself.
A lengthy process of jacking the aircraft up again had the RH side raised enough to lift the landing gear out of the hole to allow the successful replacement of the deflated wheel.
Transportation restrictions on the airframe when the time comes means that the stabilator has to be removed, a process which firstly requires removal of the tailcone. Once again, many screws had to be drilled out, some in the most inaccessible positions, but a combination of stoicism and some professional head scratching eventually saw the tailcone removed and placed on the floor.
Sunday saw the group visited on site by two of the remaining RAF personnel from Manston. This included the base commander himself as he is taking a personal interest in the project and reiterated his continued support and encouragement. As always, thanks go out to all the staff from Manston for their help and assistance on this restoration project. Also a big thank you and job well done to the volunteers, their hard work over the weekend is much appreciated – Max Archer, Peter Partridge, Alex Pinnell, Mark Coleman, Nigel Hodgson, Stuart Forth, Paul West, Pete Moore, Clive Hammond, Paul Wright, Nathan Garrard, Matt Gilby, Stephen Cawley, Gary Fisher, John Kendal and Steven Pope.
(With thanks to BPAG Chairman Paul Wright for supplying the update information)
A selection of photos showing the work undertaken in no particular order
(Photos Courtesy of Nigel Hodgson)
11th July 2020
After 4 frustrating months away, a sunny Saturday 11th June finally saw the return of the British Phantom Aviation Group to Manston and F-4J(UK), ZE360. The nature of the work needed, added to the short notice of access permission, meant that only two members were onsite, Clive Hammond and Paul Wright.
We had several tasks lined up, the principal one being to change the nosewheels, the existing ones have been fitted for the last 28 years and are past their best to say the least. This job would have taken around ½ hr “back in the day”, but owing to the bearings being corroded onto the axles, it took the best part of four hours, and some “creative” heavy engineering to do. The next priority task was to assess what else we needed to do before towing the aircraft out of its current position. The grass will need cutting, it has grown considerably since we were last here, and the remnants of a Canberra are in the way, but easily moved. Both speedbrakes will have to lifted up otherwise towing bridle will impact them. The LH one was moved quite easily, but the RH one is currently seized, and an attack of bees stopped any further work there. The plan to pull the aircraft back using heavy duty strops was assessed and found to be sound. This is very similar the procedure we used in the RAF, when aircraft came off the runway or taxiway. A final task would have been to remove the CL tank, but as it is currently resting on the ground, this will have to be done once the a/c is out of the holes into which it has sunk. This tank is the property of UAS and will be going to Belfast at their convenience.
One final curveball was thrown at us, when it was discovered that the R.H mainwheel has deflated during the time we have been away. Fortunately we have another one ready to go on as a replacement.
More news soon ………….
Further to the update from June, the refurbishment of the two ex-74 Sqn flight helmets is now complete. Paul West (BPAG volunteer and former 74 Sqn Air Radar) and fellow `Tiger` Richard Proctor sourced these two examples from unused old stock. They have been carefully restored with genuine components and are now mounted, ready for display alongside ZE360 when the time comes. Each one is complete with mask, bag and name tag paying tribute to Flight Lieutenant Ewan Murdoch and Flying Officer Jeremy Ogg, who were both tragically lost in an accident involving ZE358 during a low level interception training sortie near Aberystwyth, West Wales on 26th August 1987.
Many thanks to Paul and Richard for their generosity and hard work in preparing this tribute.
While actual physical restoration work on ZE360 has had to be put on hold due to the ongoing COVID19 pandemic, this has given the team an opportunity to address other aspects of the campaign and make some choices that probably wouldn’t have been due until a little further down the road. One such decision was the aircrew names that would adorn the canopy frame of ZE360 once complete and restored. We can now share our plans in this regard, as we have opted for two sets of names– one set placed on each of the right & left sides.
Of the 15 F-4J(UK) delivered to 74 (F) Squadron only one aircraft (ZE358/H) was lost, during a low level interception training sortie near Aberystwyth, West Wales on 26th August 1987. Both aircrew- Ewan Murdoch and Jeremy Ogg- were unfortunately killed in the accident. In order to honour the memory of Ewan and Jeremy, their names will be placed on the right side of ZE360`s canopy. With the help of 74(F) Tiger Squadron Association members (and Squadron Secretary Bob Cossey in particular) contact was made with the relatives of the aircrew and the proposal has received their blessing to pay tribute to Ewan and Jeremy in this way. In addition, Paul West (BPAG member and ex-74 Sqn Air Radar) is in the process of restoring two flight helmets, sourced from original 74 Sqn new old stock by fellow ex-Tiger Richard Proctor. These will be complete with masks, bags and embroidered name tags, which will also feature Ewan and Jeremy’s names. Many thanks to Paul & Richard for their hard work and generosity. We believe both these methods will be fitting ways to honour the memories of two airmen who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the defence of their country during the Cold War.
Moving onto the left side of ZE360, this will display the names of Ian Hargreaves and Simon Hindmarsh, who delivered the aircraft to Manston in 1991. At that time both held the rank of Flying Officer and it was very rare to have the same rank as aircrew together. The original canopy markings reflect this joint status and will be replicated as a finishing touch at the close of the restoration, adding another unusual detail to the only F-4J(UK) to survive in RAF colours, anywhere in the world.
All restoration work suspended due to the COVID19 pandemic.
ZE360 News Article published in Britain at War magazine.
Four page Workshop article published in Aeroplane Magazine detailing ZE360`s history and restoration work up to that point.
(Note text blocked out to avoid any copyright issues)
7th/8th March 2020
Last weekend saw another work party heading to Manston to work on ZE360.
Work of note was the removing more side panels causing mass casualties in drill bits , the starboard aileron finally giving up the ghost and being removed and last, but certainly not least, the main undercarriage tyres being replaced for new. This was achieved by using a custom built puller with the port wheel being the easiest of the two to remove. This then exposed the brake pack, pressure plate and bearings, which while discovered to be in better than expected condition, will require restoration at a later date. In the meantime they will be usable for towing 360 off the fire pit area. A number of data plates were also documented.
The following photo`s show the works in progress.
Starboard aileron removal and clearing the front wheels
Port Wheel Replacement
Starboard Wheel Replacement
Data Plate Documentation
(With many thanks to Nigel Hodgson for the permission to use some of his photo`s for this update)
Update press release from Flypast magazine on the restoration.
22nd/23rd February 2020
The weekend of the 22nd and 23rd February saw a BPAG team head down to Manston and carry out some preparation work on ZE360 for her relocation from the Fire Pit Aircraft Graveyard to a more suitable hardstand located near the Fire school. A concrete base will provide the perfect ground to disassemble the Phantom when the time comes for her to relocated off base and 360`s new home.
Three items were on the `to do` list include digging out the wheels from the soft ground in preparation for a wheel change, unlocking the outer wing sections so that the fuel venting vanes and ailerons could be removed and finally, some of the team start drilling out the screws on the panels.
Here are a selection of photo`s showing the team at work on the weekend.
It was also nice to see a panel from the front cockpit returned after 10 years and shows her old US Navy BuNo 155574 on the top.
It was also nice to make a little discovery and settle, (hopefully), an age old argument about the colour of the F-4J`s when they came out of the paintshop at North Island in the US. While removing a panel on by a aileron, we came across a part of the aircraft that obviously escaped the deep service repainting.
We now have a great comparison between the standard RAF air defence grey and the US mix.
Duck Egg Blue – Case Closed!
20th January 2020
The new year got off to a start which saw Paul Wright and myself head out to Manston to discuss moving ZE360 from its current location, to one more suited to her needs when it comes to dismantling her for transport. After productive talks with the RAF Fire School, a location which had been previously proposed, was accepted. Routes between the two locations were discussed and now BPAG have to prepare a movement plan and risk assessment.
After this, some physical work began. The tarpaulin had been blown off in the recent stormy weather and so that was refitted and secured.
When the time comes to relocate 360 the outer wings will require to be removed. However the pins are in and it’s hydraulic wingfold. This meant getting into the system, under D101 L&R, which you’ll see from the pictures below is heavily corroded. Sadly this meant cutting out an access, a decision not lightly taken but both panels were going to be scraped anyway.
Work was also started on the removal of the speed brake and the closure panel until lack of light brought the day to a close.
(With thanks to Paul Wright/BPAG for photos and descriptions)
21st November 2019
The 74(F) Tiger Squadron Webstore is set up and launched to raise funds towards the restoration effort. Items on sale so far include mugs, clothing and phone case accessories.
(Click link below)
20th October 2019
Another work party consisting of Paul Wright, John Kendal, Clive Hammond, Nigel Hodgson, Peter Partridge and Stephen Pope headed to Manston today to carry out some more work in preparation to remove ZE360 from site.
First on the list was clearing and cutting back the grass and foliage so access was made easier.
Among the other jobs, the brake parachute operating cable was disconnected (a fiddly job with limited access!) and both flap actuators were disconnected.
A nose gear door from ZE353/E which was scrapped at Manston circa 2001 has been donated thanks to Wayne Drinkwater.
Although in a poor state, it still has intact light fittings and wiring, so will certainly be of use as ‘360 progresses.
A port intake blank was also discovered deep inside an engine intake, and recovered.
At the end of the day, the cockpit was covered with the blue tarpaulin again – until the next visit.
(With thanks to Nigel Hodgson and Paul Wright for photo`s and text)
28th/29th September 2019
North Weald in Essex, (another Tiger lair from back in the days of World War Two, albeit for a couple of months), held their annual Jetfest weekend.
The Associations partners in the ZE360 project, BPAG, took along their Phantom FGR.2 cockpit section belonging to airframe XT490 (she ended her flying days with the Tigers), to raise funds and awareness for ZE360`s restoration and other plans associated with the project.
That `other` Tiger Squadron also popped by for a Saturday visit……
All in all, a great time was had with plenty of interest and questions from the general public.
26th September 2019
BPAG members Adrian Vines and Clive Hammond returned to Manston today to complete the task list from last Tuesday.
360`s cockpit section has now been covered in tarpaulin to reduce the amount of water ingress.
17th September 2019
On the 17th September 2019, a team of volunteers from the British Phantom Aviation Group and the 74 Squadron Association began the preservation work on ZE360 at Manston, Kent. This was the first opportunity to actually get hands on the aircraft and would hopefully offer some early indications of the true state of the bodywork and structure.
Before any of this could begin, however, the whole aircraft was cleaned, scrubbed and rinsed to remove as much fire foam residue, moss, dirt and salt deposits as possible. This revealed much of the original paintwork, some of which was still in good condition, but also uncovered some further corrosion of small areas of the paneling and fasteners, all of which was noted and logged for future attention.
Inspections were also carried out of the underside, wing fold areas and undercarriage. Partial disassembly of the tail cone allowed access to stabilator pivot mechanism, which appears to be in good order. Upper panels unfortunately proved not to be removable at this time which prevented wider inspection.
Finally an application of PX-32 preservative to all non-stainless outer surfaces (including underside where accessible) was applied to protect against further damage from weather.
Conclusions from the day’s work were that- as far as has been seen- corrosion of the airframe and parts has not been found to be any worse than expected. Some areas are visibly bad and will require extra attention and the worst affected will involve re-fabricating. However, nothing we have seen so far is terminal or should jeopardize moving the aircraft. Detailed inspections have also helped in clarifying potential course of actions for final disassembly.
I think the following photo totally highlights the days efforts ……..
Many thanks to the volunteers who joined me on the day – Nigel Hodgson, Adrian Vines, Clive Hammond and Paul Wright for giving up their free time to further the preservation effort.
Thanks also go to DFTDC at Manston for tolerating a crew of civilians on their premises.
(With thanks to Adrian Vines for Photos/text and Nigel Hodgson for Photos)
News article released by Aeroplane Magazine regarding ZE360 and fellow Phantom restoration project XT597.
News article released by Flypast Magazine announcing the project.
20th June 2019
Association and BPAG finally given permission to go public with the news of the acquisition on forums and social media.
15th May 2019
After many weeks of emails and phone calls, plus a very long single day of negotiating, the joint bid by the Association and BPAG was accepted and both organisations became the legal owners/guardians of ZE360.
(It`s at this point I would like to express our thanks to the staff at both the Manston Fire School, DESA and Military Spares Limited whose help and assistance during this process made it all possible).
26th February 2019
DESA, (Defence Equipment Sales Authority), contacted and email sent with intent to bid and acquire ZE360.
15th February 2019
Manston Fire School contacted for confirmation that ZE360 was surplus to requirements and permission to initiate a bid.
Manston Initial Assessment Visit – 25th January 2019
(Photos courtesy of Paul Wright/BPAG)
Wing tanks, front ejection seat and other smaller components purchased and removed by The Ulster Aviation Society for their Phantom restoration.
Where it all began – September 2017
Initial trip to Manston to photo ZE360 for the websites Survivors Page.
The plan was to document a very rare survivor in RAF history from as any angles as possible. I had read and heard some reports on forums and social media at the time that she was near collapse, her main gear was going through the top of the wings and the scrap man was but a call away. But what I found was somewhat different. Admittedly I`m no engineer and the sun was out on a lovely September afternoon, but 360 was not a complete wreck or as fragile as I had been led to believe. ZE360 is by no means in great shape, but I started to think about the possibility of preservation and if it were viable even at this 11th hour of her life.
I had recently met a gentleman by the name of Mike Davey, who by all accounts is probably the UK`s leading F-4J(UK) enthusiast and owns the cockpit section of ZE352, the famous `Black Bunny` Phantom that served on 74. I approached him for advice and asked if he would be interested or knew anyone who would seriously consider a rescue operation. He in turn then got in touch with Paul Wright who is the Chairman of the British Phantom Aviation Group (BPAG) and the rest, as they say, is history.