Feb 25, 2003
By Gary Rice
They don’t call him Mr. F-4 for nothing. After almost 40 years of service with the F-4 Phantom jet program at the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) Depot Cherry Point, Aerospace Engineer Harry S. Britt has devoted his entire career to the aircraft, and he deserves the title. But now that the depot’s F-4 program has been terminated, his job will soon be abolished, and he is looking forward to retirement.
“I’ve had a good active career and a great tour of duty at the depot,” Britt said. “I never left the F-4 program because I’ve enjoyed it so much. I’m certainly sorry to see it go.”
Britt came to work at what was then known as the Overhaul and Repair Depot in June 1963 after graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from North Carolina State University. The F-4 had come to the depot as a prototype only two years earlier, and Britt went straight to work in the new F-4 program.
NAVAIR Depot Cherry Point provides maintenance, engineering, and logistics support on a variety of aircraft, engines, and components for all branches of the U.S. armed forces. Employing almost 4,000 people, the depot is the only source of repair within the continental United States for many jet and rotary wing engines. It is the Navy’s center of excellence for rotary wing aircraft, providing engineering and logistics support for all Navy helicopters.
During his career, Britt has had a wide range of experiences with the F-4. His work has taken him from aircraft carriers in the Mediterranean Sea to the Blue Angels in Florida, wherever the Navy needed engineering assistance to repair grounded Phantoms and get them flying again.
“The Blue Angels flew the F-4 from 1969 to 71,” Britt said. “Anytime during those years that one of their aircraft was down with structural damage, they flew Fat Albert in here, and we’d load up and go fix it.”
In 1998, Britt and eight other depot employees were sent to Cairo, Egypt, for three months to work on six Phantoms that had been sold to the Egyptian air force. The planes had been grounded for several years, and Britt helped to prepare them for a trip to the depot, where they spent the next two years undergoing extensive re-work.
Originally from Plymouth, N.C., Britt got married during college and raised his family in North Carolina. His son also works at the depot, and his daughter works for the Craven County Board of Education. She has given him a beautiful granddaughter, who will soon be 5 years old.
After he retires, Britt says he plans to run his cypress mulch business in New Bern, play racquetball and softball, work out at the YMCA, do a lot of bass fishing, and pal around with his many friends. He believes it is important to stay active, and he says he will definitely not be bored.
“I’ve always been identified as Mr. F-4, and I appreciate that,” Britt said. “I’ve always liked to be out there where the action is in my job, and I’ve really enjoyed working with a lot of great F-4 engineers, mechanics, and designers throughout the years. Both the depot and the F-4 have been very good to me, and I’m grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had. The younger guys in the program will move on to other shops and work on other aircraft, but I’ve reached that point in my life where I know it’s time to go.”
NAVAIR provides advanced warfare technology through the efforts of a seamless, integrated, worldwide network of aviation technology experts. From professional training to carrier launch, sensor data to precision targeting, aircraft and weapons development to successful deployment, and real-time communication to aircraft recovery, NAVAIR provides dominant combat effects and matchless capabilities to the American warfighter.
Photo: On the eve of his retirement, tentatively planned for late March, after almost 40 years of service to the depot as an aerospace engineer, Mr. F-4, Harry Britt, holds a model of the aircraft that has been such a big part of his life, the F-4 Phantom jet. (Photo by Gary Rice)
FRCE Public Affairs