Tomcat Tribute

The Navy’s fearsome fighter retires.

Feathers ruffled, a "Turkey" rests on the deck of the Harry S. Truman while a Sikorsky MH-60S Knighthawk hoists in supplies for the carrier population. (PHA Gregory A. Pierot, USN)
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By now the story of Vice Admiral Thomas Connolly and his support for the Grumman F-14 has become a Navy legend. As the deputy chief of naval operations, Connolly famously testified against the General Dynamics F-111B, countering a powerful Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, who believed an all-service airplane would reduce cost. The F-111B was canceled, and Grumman won a contract to replace it. Historians have written that Connolly's 1966 testimony was a career ender, but it won him immortality in the naming of the F-14. The aviator had flown Wildcats in World War II; his call sign: "Tomcat." Another influential Tom, Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, was the chief of naval operations at the time, and his name may have helped the cause.


Don't Call Me Turkey

At first I didn't like it when I heard the nickname "turkey." I thought it was disrespectful, until one day I was in the ready room watching a recovery. When you're in the ready room, everything just stops when an airplane is recovered. Everybody's watching the TV screen to make sure it goes okay. So I'm watching the airplane come in, and it has so many moving surfaces-these huge horizontal stabilators that are as big as an A-4's main wing and they move differentially, and the spoilers rise on the wing, and it's flapping and rocking. And I had to admit: It looked just like a turkey.>>> Dave "Hey Joe" Parsons, VF-102, -32, -101


Snakes in the Cockpit

BY THE TIME I SWITCHED to the F-14, I had over 1,000 hours and 300 traps in the F-4 Phantom. The F-4 was very stable in the landing configuration compared to the F-14. The Tomcat's swing wing allowed slower, safer approach speeds, but that required more and larger flight control deflections. It looked like we were beating snakes in the cockpit. Day traps were fun. Night traps were different. Some pilots couldn't get to sleep for hours afterward.

One of our first-cruise [radar intercept officers], after a night trap, asked his pilot why it took so long to get out of the cockpit after engine shutdown. The RIO would stand on the flight deck waiting and waiting. The pilot, an experienced combat veteran, explained that he needed time for his knees to stop shaking before he could safely climb down the ladder. The RIO told me he never looked at night traps the same way again- and never asked another pilot why it took so long to get out of the cockpit.>>> CJ "Heater" Heatley, VF-21


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