Paying Tribute to the People Who Took Aviation
from the Flight Deck of a Navy Carrier to Man's First Steps on the Moon
On Thursday, June 15, 2006 two F-14D Tomcats from Fighter Squadron Thirty One flew up from Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia to New York for one last time over Long Island. At approximately 9:00 AM the F-14s first flew over the Calverton facility (to include Grumman Memorial Park) where they were originally flight-tested and then it was on to Bethpage. After completing several passes over the Bethpage facility, the Tomcats proceeded to Republic Airport. Upon making a few passes over the field, the jets landed and were parked on the ramp just to the south of the American Airpower Museum.
The event, sponsored by Northrop Grumman, was augmented with support from the American Airpower Museum. The jets remained on display, available to the public for the rest of the day. Later that evening a banquet, also sponsored by Northrop Grumman, was held at the Cradle of Aviation Museum to honor all those who designed, built, supported and operated the finest fighter the Navy ever had, the F-14 Tomcat. Grumman Memorial Park also supported this event by loaning its tow bar in the event the jets need to be repositioned. This was the first time all three Long Island aviation museums worked in concert together to make this event the success it was.
Even though Friday, June 16, was Northrop Grumman employee day, there were many Grumman retirees in attendance as well. At approximately 1:30 PM, the F-14s prepared for departure. Before leaving it was announced that the squadron commander wanted the crowd to know that he and his wingman would "kneel" the aircraft (as they do to launch off a carrier) as a symbolic "bow" to all the people who worked on the F-14 program. I can attest that there weren’t too many dry eyes in the crowd after that. The F-14s then proceeded to the runway for departure.
Upon take off the leader banked to the right giving the crowd a perfect view of the top of the Tomcat. The second F-14 banked and turned hard right and passed directly over the American Airpower Museum low enough to almost read the names painted on the canopy. The Tomcats made two more passes over the field and on the final pass pulled up into a vertical climb right over the crowd, lit the afterburners and we watched as four orange glows disappeared and closed the chapter of Grumman F-14 Tomcats on Long Island.
I would like to point out that in 1933 when Grumman was located at what is now known as Republic Airport, just a few hundred feet away from where we were standing, its first fighter, the FF-1 rumbled down a grassy airfield in about the same location where the runway is now that the Tomcats used for takeoff. What a fitting way to end Grumman’s involvement with the fighter community of Naval Aviation. Our first and last fighter aircraft both took off from the same field in Farmingdale some seventy-three years apart.