Former F-4 mechanic connects with display plane at MCAS Yuma

Seventy-year-old Sam Robbins talks about an F4-B Phantom II jet that he believes he worked on in the early 1960s while Robbins was stationed in Virginia. The jet currently makes Marine Corps Air Station Yuma its home, sitting among other aircraft and armaments on display at the main entrance. That is where Robbins first saw the plane and thoght it looked familiar. Photos by Randy Hoeft/Yuma Sun

Sam Robbins estimates he put his hands on 250 fighter jets as a young Navy mechanic. You’d think that at some point, they all started to look alike. But something about the F-4B Phantom II sitting proudly inside the main gate at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma spoke to him.


“I looked at it and I kept looking at it and I said, ‘Something about that airplane,’” he recalls, his voice subtly climbing in pitch with incredulity.

“I finally said, ‘I need to get that serial number down,’ and I looked it up here,’” he continues, tapping a well-combed reference book on F-4s, “and I said, ‘I worked on that thing.’ That put knots on my head at one time or another.”

More recently, it put a warm feeling inside him.

The circumstances line up to make it likely that Robbins stumbled upon a piece of his past that he last saw when he was a 20-year-old sailor in Virginia.

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