There is an F-4 Phantom jet that sits under 50 feet of water in the Sparks Marina. Crews dropped the retired fighter jet into the depths of the Sparks Marina during a 4th of July celebration in the early 2000's. Since then, it's become a top attraction for scuba divers.

The plane, built in 1964, flew missions in southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. The F-4 arrived in Reno in 1975, and became part of the Nevada Air National Guard's fleet until a 1988 crash landing, which damaged it beyond repair.

Sparks resident, and owner of Tropical Penguin Scuba, Kevin Schwartz acquired the plane in 2000, with the intention of starting a scuba park at the Sparks Marina - the only lake in the Truckee Meadows appropriate for open water scuba diving.

"As divers we wanted someplace close to dive around here that would be kind of fun, and I thought an airplane at the bottom of a local body of water would be fun, It's not something normally found on the bottom of a lake." Schwartz said. Originally, Schwartz planned to drop the plane in the Marina in September but agreed to postpone the event to coincide with the first Star Spangled Sparks celebration in July 2001, when the plane was lowered into the water with an Nevada Amy National Guard Chinook helicopter. "People stopped dead on the freeway to watch," said Schwartz, who spent three years and roughly $10,000 acquiring, cleaning and transporting the plane.

Tied to an orange buoy about 100 yards off the south side of the peninsula, the plane is easy to locate, even for inexperienced divers.

"To me it was extremely worth it. I think that from the standpoint of the diver's community it's just been very valuable. It creates something to talk about and dive on. It's amazing to me to this day, I'll be talking to someone who isn't even a diver at the grocery store or at the bank and they find out I'm a diver and they'll ask if I've ever dove the F-4. It's been tremendous!"

Hans Baumann, a diver from Truckee, said for him, the F-4 has a mysterious, magnetic quality. "It's hard to really explain other than that, I've done over 50 dives in the Marina now over the last year and a half," said the 39-year-old truck driver. "I'll take people out there at any time when I'm available to do it. I keep going back to it. To me, it's a challenge."

One diver says it's kind of eerie, initially. As you approach the plane, you can begin to make out the shadow and the shape. And once you're down on the airplane, you stay relatively close to it and you just swim around and explore.

Schwartz had bars installed over it so divers can't climb in the cockpit, but you can still see all the controls inside. As you swim underneath it you can see all the landing gear. And you can swim in the engine bay on the back end. It's got enough room in there for one to two divers.
The F-4 was built in 1964 and used in the Vietnam War before crashing in 1988. The Phantom is 63-feet long and six feet tall. Tropical Penguin Scuba acquired the plane with the intention to place it in Sparks Marina. The Phantom was lowered about 45 feet down into the Marina in July 2001 so that divers could enjoy some underwater exploration during the time when the City was considering turning the open-water lake into a diving park.

"A point of reference is so that divers can descend right into the object they want to see," Sierra Diving Center Owner Keith Chesnut says. "It's novel to be able to see a F-4 aircraft body- not a lot of people have access to that- let alone be able to dive it. It creates something for divers to see, it's unique and people from all over the West Coast come to see it," he adds.

People who like to dive are usually adventure-driven, looking for aquatic life, shipwrecks, or wanting to learn more about certain bodies of water.

"Lake Tahoe is a huge attraction, but divers with more experience are often looking for new, unique experiences and that's where places like the Sparks Marina appeals to them," Chesnut says.