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Last Flight of F-4D Updated: 2010-06-16 00:00:00 KST

A series of F-4D supersonic jet fighters neatly lines the runway of the Korean Air Force base in Daegu in southeastern Korea.
Their wings are folded as if to say they are done flying.
The jets… which first landed in Korea in 1969… have served and completed their mission in the Korean Air Force and are now ready to retire.

[Reporter : Kim Na-ri
narikim@arirang.co.kr] "F-4D is also called as the Phantom because it has been a powerful threat to enemies. And after 41 years of flying and protecting Korea, they are making their final flights today."

The Korean Air Force conducted a farewell ceremony to send the planes off as well as to commemorate the 17 pilots who died while flying them.
The ceremony was attended by former pilots who first flew the jets over four decades ago.
Seeing the last flight of their old friends held an emotional meaning for them.

[Interview : Kim In-ki
Former Air Force Chief of Staff
] "It has been 41 years, but I get excited every time I see the F-4D. The relationship between the pilot and the plane is the same as a human-to-human relationship. The plane moves as my body moves. Saying good-bye to the F-4D is as if I am losing my baby and my friend."

The F-4D fighter-bomber was originally developed for the US Navy and served as the principal air superiority fighter for the US forces during the Vietnam War.
Since 1969 a total of 80 supersonic jets have served in the Korean military.
And as of Tuesday the F-4Ds have retired and will be replaced by new F-15K Slam Eagles.
The last pilot to take to the air in the F-4D also shared the sadness of leaving his friend.

[Interview : Lieutenant Commander Joo Seong-gyu
Korean Air Force] "I felt great honor to fly the last flight of the F-4D, ending its 41-years mission. But it is sad to say good-bye to the jet who was my family and my friend. But we will learn from former pilots who devoted their lives in the air force and linger in spirit to protect the country."

Some of the retired jets will be displayed in different parts of Korea for historical record and some will be donated to universities and other institutions to help train pilots.
The Air Force says although the F-4D's mission has ended its spirit will linger on to continue the strength of the Korean Air Force.
Kim Na-ri, Arirang News, Daegu.
KOGL : Korea Open Government License
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