Campaign to save Leuchars ‘Black Mike’ takes off

Phantom Fg1 XV582, better known as Black Mike
Phantom Fg1 XV582, better known as Black Mike

A fundraising campaign to save a history-making jet based at RAF Leuchars from going into a private collection or, even worse, being scrapped has taken off.

When the RAF announced it was putting the Phantom Fg1 XV582, better known as Black Mike because of its distinctive all-black livery, up for auction, a group of aviation buffs rushed to put in a bid.

Now the group has stepped up a gear to raise the cash and so far has attracted more than £5500 in donations and some high profile supporters, including at least one Air Marshall.

Until 2011, Black Mike was used as a ‘gate guardian’ at the base but has been in storage ever since.

However, earned its place in aviation history in 1988 when it set the speed record for flying from one of the country to the other during a flight which also saw it become the first RAF Phantom to pass 5000 flying hours.

It completed the 590-mile flight from Land’s End to John O’Groats in 46m 44s, averaging 757mph.

The Save XV582 Black Mike group wants to safeguard the future of the airframe and restore it to as serviceable condition as possible.

The aircraft would be kept at Bruntingthorpe, Leicestershire, alongside a very substantial Cold War jet collection.

Moving it to the airfield would also make it accessible to volunteers with a wealth of experience in jet restoration and operation.

“If our bid is successful the aircraft will be owned by a charitable trust and placed into the care of the British Phantom Aviation Group for the purposes of the restoration and operation,” explained Matthew Wilkes, representing the group.

Sam Thompson, secretary of the group, said that even if his group was not successful, he would be happy as long as the Phantoms went to a good home where they could be viewed rather than hidden away in a private collection. He feels it is owed to the air and ground crews who operated them to preserve what is one of only a few complete ex-RAF Phantom IIs remaining of around 170 once in service.