Although the history of British aviation can boast many famous aeroplanes amongst its ranks, there can be few that were as visually striking as the mighty Phantom FG.1s of the Royal Navy, which operated from the diminutive deck of HMS Ark Royal. In the seconds prior to launch and whilst connected to the ship’s steam catapult, the aircraft’s nose wheel oleo would be extended to its maximum 40 inch position, giving the Phantom a distinct nose up attitude to increase the efficiency of engine thrust. With steam rising eerily from the ships deck, Navy Phantoms looked like a giant metal praying mantis, ready to spring into action at a moment’s notice. With maximum afterburner selected and the engine power almost melting the ship’s deck, the Phantom was finally released from its shackles and roared into the air – such a spectacular experience for anyone lucky enough to see it. Although most of us will have only ever seen the operation of Ark Royal’s Phantoms on video or in reference books, these iconic images left such an indelible impression that Britain’s Rolls Royce Spey powered Phantoms have since become something of an enigma and still command huge enthusiast interest to this day.
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