How legendary Naval Aviator E. Royce Williams, Jr., was able to land an F-4 Phantom II with an engine on fire and the other flamed out

Once a US Navy F-4 squadron CO decided to give wives a ride taxiing in the backseat of the Phantoms. The event shut down after an F-4 went high speed on the runway, another blew tires and another got airborne.

By Dario Leone
Oct 19 2022
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‘The third F-4 got airborne for a few feet. However, after touching back down on the runway, the pilot needed to drop his tailhook to catch the long field arresting gear before going off the far end of the runway,’ John Chesire, former US F-4 Phantom pilot.

Normally it is not possible to take a family member on a fighter jet for a flight or a taxi ride unless of course that family member is somehow qualified to be in the jet, siblings that went through the same training or something like that.

John Chesire, former US Navy F-4 Phantom II pilot, recalls an interesting anecdote on Quora;

’Many years ago, with my first F-4 squadron, our CO decided to have an open house, family day on a weekend. Wives and girlfriends were invited to tour the squadron spaces and aircraft. Lunch was provided in the ready room. The highlight of the day was for the women to get a ride taxiing in the backseat of the F-4 Phantom.

‘So later all the squadron’s aircraft were lined up at the hold short line of the 12,000-foot/3658-meter runway with the pilots’ wives or girlfriends in each back seat. Each aircraft was to do a very high-speed taxi down this long runway and then stop, turn off the runway and taxi back to the squadron hangar.

‘Unfortunately, all did not go well.

‘The first aircraft got up to a high speed down the runway, and then the pilot stomped on the brakes. He turned off the runway with hot brakes and smoke emanating from the wheels. The crash crew rolled out to him to put out any potential brake fire.

‘The next aircraft did about the same thing. However, this time the pilot blew both tires as he tried to stop before exiting the end of the runway.

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‘The third aircraft actually got airborne for a few feet. However, after touching back down on the runway, the pilot needed to drop his tailhook to catch the long field arresting gear before going off the far end of the runway.

‘Thankfully, somebody in authority suddenly shut this whole exercise down, much to the disappointment of those still waiting their turn at the high-speed taxi run down the runway. Today the CO would probably be relieved of his command for allowing such a dangerous and unauthorized event, but things were much different back then.’

Chesire concludes;

‘As a new fighter pilot at the time, all this made a lasting impression on me about the perils of a high-speed abort.

‘I will add this: No racing. Each one did it individually. But they wanted to get some speed to give the passenger a thrill. However, aborting at high speed was something maybe none of them had ever done. These planes were full of gas, very heavy unlike when landing, and did not slow easily. It was a surprise to most.’

Photo credit: U.S. Navy

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Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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