Code Brown As This F-4 Phantom Nearly Collides With A Mosque’s Minaret

Flying fighter aircraft at low-level may be one of the world’s ultimate e-ticket rides, but it is not without its fair share of dangers. Case in point, the video below, which I first saw on Twitter a couple of months ago, but didn’t save it. I finally hunted it down again to share it with our readers. 

From what I can piece together, it shows the head-up display (HUD) footage from an upgraded Turkish F-4 Phantom. All seems to be well until seemingly out of nowhere a large mosque appears. The jet pitches up at the very last moment, just narrowly missing its towering minarets, one of which was dead-on in the line of flight of the Turkish Phantom. It is truly a terrifying moment to behold, although the crew’s reaction was astonishingly lighthearted. 

Reports state that the aircraft was one of three F-4E Terminator 2020 Phantom variants involved in a practice flight for a flyover for a military parade in Ankara scheduled on October 29th, 2004. The incident occurred two days prior. The jet so narrowly missed the minaret that pieces of its ornamental crescent were flung as the jet roared by, injuring a couple of people on the ground. At the time, the regional press had some ‘interesting’ read-ins to the near-disaster, with a special focus on the female crewmen and the political situation at the time of the almost disastrous practice flight. You can read this report that is cached by Google here.

The combination of speed (the jet appears to be going about 350 knots), ground rush, weather conditions and haze, along with other atmospheric effects, can be a fatal combination for low-flying fighter pilots. The visibility out of the front of the F-4 is less than stellar, too. Above all else, a lack of awareness of obstacles in the aircraft’s flight path before traveling a route can be even deadlier. This appeared to be the case here considering the mission was to prepare for a future flyover. One ex-fighter pilot we asked about the video and its circumstances told us that “if this was a familiarization flight, it was executed way too low with way too little information.”

Upgraded Turkish Phantom., Arpingstone/wikicommons

Just another reminder of how things can go from business as usual to sudden death in fighter business. 

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Tyler Rogoway Avatar

Tyler Rogoway


Tyler's passion is the study of military technology, strategy, and foreign policy and he has fostered a dominant voice on those topics in the defense media space. He was the creator of the hugely popular defense site Foxtrot Alpha before developing The War Zone.