The film “Hands to Flying Stations” was shot and produced during 1975 when the Royal Navy’ Fleet Air Arm (FAA) was still flying McDonnell Douglas FG.1 Phantom IIs from the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal (R09). The FG.1 variant was powered by Rolls-Royce Spey turbofan engines, which necessitated larger engine air intakes as well as aft fuselage modifications to fit the larger Spey engines within the Phantom’s engine bays. This video transfer of the film, uploaded by YouTuber aerocruses, explains FAA carrier operations in great detail and with some unexpected British humor thrown in.
When the film was made the FAA Air Wing aboard the Ark Royal totaled 39 aircraft consisting of 809 Naval Air Squadron (NAS) flying the Blackburn Buccanneer S2 attack aircraft (also equipped with RR Spey engines), 892 NAS McDonnell Douglas FG.1 Phantom II fighters, 849B NAS Fairey Gannet AEW.3 airborne early warning aircraft, 824 NAS Westland Sea King HAR.3 rescue helicopters, and Westland Wessex HAS.1 multipurpose helicopters assigned to the ship’s company.
The Brits operated Buccanneers and Phantoms from a comparatively tiny carrier deck. The United States Navy never deployed Phantoms aboard carriers smaller than the Midway class. The Ark Royal was roughly the same size as an Essex-class carrier. It must have been a real eye opener for American crews to cross-deck with the Brits and operate their F-4J Phantom IIs from Ark Royal after being accustomed to the comparatively huge flight decks of the American Forrestal-class bird farms. The Brits must have enjoyed the spacious American flight decks as well.