Grumman F-14 Tomcat
Swansong at SAR 2006

As I understood from conversation overheard, the F-14 is the fave jet fighter of the person in charge of SAR chalet food service. She knows people who know people who know people, and the happy result was the historic final appearance by a "Cat-bird" at our event. True or not, we were extraordinarily privileged to have this aircraft and professional, courteous flight crew at the big show.

The F-14 flew what was probably its last carrier deployment earlier this year. By the end of September this year, the 11 Tomcats serving now with VF-31 will be flown to the "boneyard," the MASDC at Davis-Monthan AFB near Tuscon, Arizona. The pilot told me all this is subject to re-thinking if the wprld's wars require their extended service. My bet is that even if this remarkable aircraft -- which should have been upgraded and maintained in operational service for decades longer because there is nothing remaining in service with any air arm that can out perform it in specific combat situations. Thanks to all the entities that brought the Tomcat to Springfield and to the patient, accomodating crew.

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8. Modelers: note the difference in color around the foot insert plates below the canopy.
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12. Note the difference between this Felix the Cat insignia and the one on the vert stab in picture #13.
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15. Sunday afternoon late. While other aircraft departed KSPI, Tomcat crew talked via cell phone with their home base. Weather likely to be encountered en route home threateneds to delay the departure until Monday.
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20. The pilot and WSO were provided these cars by a SAR sponsor dealer.
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22. The "go" to return to the nest came via cell phone and the crew preflighted and boarded the F-14.
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23. The WSO went through his pre-flight check list . . .
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24. . . . while the GIF (guy iu front) did the same.
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30. I took a wide stance when taking this picture to the photographer would be more than a plain vertical blob reflected in the infrared dome.
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32. While the crew were still on the ground, this young couple approached, and the fellow was peritted a fast peek into the cockpit. Rumor has it that he visited his US Navy recruiter first thing Monday morning. I know if I had been his age, I would have!
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33. Extended boarding ladder used by both crew members.
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35. Engines are running, canopy closed, and the external APU remained attached for a few more minutes.
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36. The APU has been wheeled away from the airplane.
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37. Several members of the Illinois Air National Guard supported the launch of the F-14.
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39. The plane begins to taxi. Note the turned nose wheels.
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41. Passing by the KC.
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42. A final glance as the aircraft departs the apron for the taxiway.
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43. Last takeoff of an F-14 from Springfield.
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47. The pilot flew two  passes at low altitude. I was almost stunned in awe of this incredible airplane.
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49. I felt like the pilot was giving me my own personal air show though I know everyone on the airport saw and immensely appreciated the generosity of the F-14 crew. Just outstanding!
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52. This picture has been retouched to confuse the enemy.
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53. With a cooperative sky and perfect time of day, even earnest web master appears to have proven himself  a competent photographer; aye? I am in absolute awe of the beauty of this airplane!
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54. A sad, inevitable moment: as the pilot gently rocked the wings, I new "goodbye" when I saw it, and I said a silent prayer for the safe return of craft and crew to home.
I have seen many airplanes fly at Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport,  Springfield, Illinois since I was born in 1947.  Not one made a deeper and more lasting impression on me than this F-14. Sincerest thanks to the crew of the F-14 AND to the volunteers of Springfield Air Rendezvous 2006 who came together to make this event possible.

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