The Navy's fearsome fighter retires.
- Air & Space magazine, September 2006
PHA Gregory A. Pierot, USN
(Page 4 of 6)
I'm flying the Super Hornet now, and it's a very capable jet. The thing is new, and it's as dependable as a Japanese car. Everything works, all the time. But I'm sorry- it just ain't sexy. The Tomcat is sexy. I remember forming up after a fight or something, looking over, thinking, 'Damn, that's a great-looking jet.' The Tomcat is like your 20-year-old cherry Corvette, and the Hornet is like a nice new Accord.>>> Jim "Mouth" McCall, VFA-102
December 30, 1970: Second Flight
After a hydraulic system failure, two Grumman test pilots ejected from the first pre-production F-14. Neither was harmed.
We were about a half mile short of the runway and 25 feet above the trees. Bill [Miller] quickly initiated the ejection sequence. Firing of the canopy and the two seats took 0.9 seconds as advertised; 0.4 seconds later the nosewheel hit a tree. This episode could have been avoided. During a lab test before the first flight, we had to shut the engines down because the aircraft lost hydraulic fluid. We later found out that a report from the lab was working its way through the system over Christmas, telling us that the failure in the test was a fatigue fracture of titanium hydraulic lines, the same failure experienced during our flight.>>>Bob Smyth, test pilot
40 Miles of Wiring
Before becoming a U.S. Navy officer, Lieutenant Commander Walt Winters spent 12 years as an electrician assigned to F-14s. What made the Tomcat such a high-maintenance aircraft (40 hours of maintenance per flight hour), says Winters, is the "40 miles of wiring that was inside of it. Old and brittle, the wires would constantly break and snap" from the stress of launch and landing.
After almost every flight, a team of 12 to 15 maintainers, including at least two electricians, two airframe specialists, and two engine mechanics, would descend upon an F-14 after the pilot had parked it on the flight deck. During flight operations, the team had only 60 minutes to check the Tomcat and ready it for its next launch. Only if a fix would take hours, such as replacing an engine, was an F-14 taken to a lower deck.
To park an F-14, the pilot had to put the wings into "oversweep," a setting five or six feet beyond the swept-back position they could assume during flight. The wiring needed to command the wings into oversweep broke-a lot. "Sometimes you would have to jury-rig it," says Winters. "And you're doing this while you're on top of the airplane. It's still running, the engines are hot, and the [flight crew] are still in there. You've got panels open, and the boss is yelling over the loudspeaker, 'Get the wings back!' Jets are landing right beside you at 150 miles an hour. And taking off. And sometimes it's raining.">>>Diane Tedeschi, Air & Space
That business about flying the engines instead of the wing, that was really true with the TF30 [the F-14's original engine]. Any aggressive move you wanted to make, you had to worry about how the engines would like it. Like you had to ask their permission.>>> Hank "Butch" Thompson, VF-11
We've flown airplanes to museums all over the country. People are going to be able to eyeball these beauties for a long time. We had one going to Allentown, Pennsylvania, to a VFW display there. I spent two full days talking to permit people. I could not get them to believe the size of the jet, that you can't fold the thing up any less than 33 feet across. The main gear was wider than some of the roads we needed to use. Then they insisted we move it from the airport at 10 a.m. We told them we always do this after midnight because of traffic. Nope-10 or nothing. We shut down Allentown cold. Everyone got into it, made a parade out of it. And the display is magnificent-up on a cliff over the city, all lit up, lots of flags flying. Go see it.>>> Bill "Taco" Bell, VF-14, -101, -102, -41