NAS Fallon says goodbye to F-14 fighter planes
May 25, 2005
They were once the U.S. Navy's premier fighter planes. Now they're staring at extinction.
By Friday, F-14 Tomcats will be nothing more than a distant memory at the Naval Air Station in Fallon.
The Navy plans to phase out all F-14s from its operations by spring or summer of 2006 to focus on the new, more cost-effective F/A-18 Super Hornets.
The last 20 F-14s to ever land at NAS Fallon will fly out of the base on a staggered schedule between Wednesday and Friday on their way to NAS Oceana in Virginia Beach, Va.
NAS Oceana will be the final stop for the last of the 633 F-14s that have been built for the Navy since 1970.
Some will be kept intact as displays in museums and military bases. Most will be dismantled into junk yard shredders and wind up as aluminum blocks for cans and cars.
One of the reasons for the switch to Super Hornet fighter planes has to do with saving money. According to the Navy, the cost of maintaining an F-14 is nearly three times the amount needed to maintain an F/A-18.
Although the Navy estimates it will save serious amounts of money and maintenance man hours with the end of the F-14 era, the planes' slow demise has been bittersweet to many squadron members who have flown them.
"I've wanted to fly since I can remember, definitely after seeing F-14s in 'Top Gun' in 1986," said U.S. Navy Lt. Taylor Grant, with Squadron VF-31. "I just think it's an awesome jet. It's kind of a man's jet - kind of a burly jet. It's going to be sad to see it go."
But despite his obvious love for the F-14 Tomcats, Grant, whose call sign is "No-Show," admits the conversion to Super Hornets will make life in the Navy much easier.
"The Tomcat is a great plane, but it is old," Grant said. "Stuff that has been aged tends to break down somewhat more often. It's more expensive to maintain and it takes longer to maintain it, so it's harder on the guys."
U.S. Navy Squadrons VF-31 and VF-213 are the last two Tomcat squadrons to fly out of NAS Fallon. The two squadrons have been intensively training at the naval base as part of their work-up cycle before they deploy to the USS Roosevelt. After that, the destinations of the squadrons and their F-14s is unknown.
All that is known is that the final deployment will be in the fall, and it will be the last for the F-14s.
That thought is a welcome relief to Thomas Robinson, who is a first class aviation machinist's mate for the U.S. Navy.
Robinson, who has worked to repair F-14s during his time in the Navy, said he would save numerous hours of repair time with the elimination of the Tomcats.
By comparison of engine installation time between F-14s and F/A-18s, the difference is staggering. According to Robinson, it takes three to five hours to remove and replace an F-14 engine. With F/A-18s, it only takes 90 minutes.
"From my standpoint, you spend so many hours on the F-14 trying to fix it," Robinson said. "The Navy has a lot of different changes that are happening and will be happening in the future. For us, it will be better. You can't be under an aircraft all day. We're spending so much time on this, it seems like we're missing out on a lot of other things we need to do."
Despite all the gains that can be made from switching to Super Hornet planes, the F-14 still possesses one thing over any other plane in the Navy - speed.
Lt. Junior Grade Todd "Chilly" Winters, with VF-213, said that speed will be missed.
"I'll definitely miss the airspeed as far as technicalities are concerned," Winters said. "It's the fastest plane out there."
But when it comes right down to it, Winters said he knows the F/A-18 Super Hornet is better for the Navy than his beloved F-14 Tomcat.
"When you weigh all the goods and bads, the Super Hornet is better," Winters said. "You see less maintenance hours, less maintenance costs and better integration of weapons with better technology. So the Super Hornet will be better.
"But I'll still miss the F-14 glory days."
In other news today, U.S Army Spokeswoman Elizabeth Robbins
said the Army will formally announce the replacement for the M-16
rifle next week.
She would not confirm nor deny rumors that the Army
is seriously considering the F/A-18 Super Hornet to replace
the nearly 40 year old rifle.
Defense analysts have stated the rifle is rapidly approaching obsolescence
and the Super Hornet is a viable replacement.
Cue cheesy Top Gun guitar solo...............