Grove became home to an iconic and historically impressive aircraft, thanks to the work of numerous individuals, veteran organizations, Grove Rotary and the Grove Civil Air Patrol.
It is a static display on donated land at Ferra Aerospace in Grove. The aircraft, a F-4 Phantom fighter jet has a long and storied reputation of contributing to key turning points in wars over the last 60 years.
“In only moments the Phantom flashed over us like a lightning bolt. The sonic wave and roar of the engines arrived almost simultaneously. It momentarily overwhelmed all other noise. “Sierra, this is Thunder Horse, request you pop smoke to mark your location.” - Except from Turner Hopkins diary
It has been said that the F-4 Phantom is proof positive that is you attach a big enough engine; you can get a rock to fly.
One of the nicknames for the F-4 is “lead sled” because of its weight (over 61,000 pounds with fuel and armaments), but “it was very maneuverable” said Otto Maynard, a former Phantom pilot.
Maynard flew it in Vietnam and it was a feared jet whether it was on a bombing run, dog-fighting with North Vietnamese MIG’s or providing close air support for ground troops.
“Thunder Horse One One, this is Daring One Zero Sierra, request your location, over.” “One Zero Sierra this is Thunder Horse, Airborne, Bien Hoa, turning to coordinates your location, request you confirm, over.” “Roger Thunder Horse, I confirm.” I read our coordinates; two sets of numbers, into the microphone. “Roger, Sierra, understand.” He repeated the numbers back to me. His voice was oscillating, quaking from the vibration created by the tremendous power of the engines which propelled the bullet he was riding toward us. - except from Turner Hopkins diary
Because of its versatility and performance, the Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps flew versions of the Phantom.
At its introduction it quickly set 25 world records such as speed (Mach 2.6) and altitude (62,250 foot ceiling) and a range of 1,000 miles.
Though Maynard no longer flies the Phantom, he has helped disassemble and reassemble the #247 and is helping with the site prep.
Pete Norwood was also an F-4 pilot helping; Dave Helms was a structural repairman on Phantoms and is key in the assembly of this one; Bill Lee was also part of a Phantom crew. Many have made this display possible.
VP of Ferra Aeronautics, Jerry Cook, jokes that many people have stopped and entered the building asking if “Ferra” was an airplane museum.
He said the organization is proud to be a part of this display and will provide long-term general grounds maintenance, camera surveillance, lighting and overflow parking for weekend F-4 Phantom events. Watch for announcements of those events.
With a projected budget of more than $100,000 to complete the static display, donations are still being accepted.
For more information, persons interested may contact Dave Helms at 918-786-4646, Norwood at 918-791-1215,or visit the Facebook page for the F-4 Grove Community Foundation.
“Roger, over and out”