In a ceremony at Holloman AFB, New Mexico on December 21, over 500 people watched the final flight of an Air Force F-4 Phantom. Marking the end of over 50 years of service to the Air Force it was a bittersweet moment for pilot Lt. Col. Ronald King who flew the F-4 on its final flight.

“This has been a humbling experience,” said King, the Det. 1, 82nd Aerial Target Squadron commander. “There is no way to truly understand what this aircraft has done without talking to the people who lived it.”

“I’ve learned a lot on this journey,” said King, the only active duty F-4 pilot in the Air Force. “This is not an aircraft; this is a family. With that, I would leave you with this – Phantom forever.” – Holloman AFB

Watch the Final F-4 Flight

Originally developed for the United States Navy by McDonnell Aircraft it first flew in 1958. The F-4 was a large tandem seat, twin engine aircraft that could be utilized as a high speed interceptor, bomber or fighter jet. Due to the high performace of the aircraft it was quickly adapted into the US Air Force and Marine Corps.

Despite being able to carry 18,000 of weapons such as air-to-air missiles, air-to-ground rockets and bombs the F-4 was sometimes criticized for not having an internal cannon. The thinking at the time was that the days of air combat where one plane would shoot down another with bullets were over. Air-to-air missiles were the weapon of choice for ‘modern’ air combat.