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Jon Knutson, Published July 26 2009

Plane speaking of F-4 Phantom

DETROIT LAKES, Minn. – The F-4 Phantom II was once a military mainstay and “the last real man’s jet,” in the words of a pilot who flew it.

Former members of the North Dakota Air National Guard’s 119th Wing, better known as the “Happy Hooligans,”, gathered Friday and Saturday in Detroit Lakes to celebrate the plane and their shared memories of it.

The North Dakota Air National Guard used the

F-4 from 1977 until it was retired in 1989 in favor of the F-16.

The Detroit Lakes event, which attracted about 140 people, marked the 20th anniversary of the F-4’s retirement.

Jet planes that came after the F-4 are much more computerized and are easier to fly, said Gary “Trapper” Goltz, who flew the F-4 with the Hooligans.

“That’s why I call it the last real man’s jet,” said Goltz, now a commercial airline pilot living in Squaw Lake, Minn.

He smiled when asked if younger jet pilots who never flew the F-4 would agree.

“They know it’s true,” he said.

Organizing the 20th anniversary began last year, said Tom Larson, a retired Hooligans pilot who lives on Minnesota’s Pelican Lake.

The gathering allowed former Hooligans, some of whom hadn’t seen each other in years, to get together, Larson said.

“Once a Hooligan, always a Hooligan,” he said. “We’re glad we had the opportunity to do this.”

Both Larson and Goltz said everyone associated with the Hooligans is proud of the unit’s ties to the F-4.

“There’s a real camaraderie with the Hooligans, and you can see that when we start talking about the F-4,” Larson said.

“It was a great plane.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Jonathan Knutson at (701) 241-5530