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Newsday.com

An F-14 Tomcat's final trip - to Bethpage by road

BY JAMES BERNSTEIN

 

james.bernstein@newsday.com

 

June 2, 2008

 

If you happened to be out and about in Farmingdale or Bethpage in the wee hours of the morning May 6 and saw a Navy F-14 Tomcat fighter jet on the roadway, you do not need an eye exam, and you were not hallucinating.

 

F-14.jpg

 

The plane was being towed from the Airpower Museum at Republic Airport in East Farmingdale to the Northrop Grumman Corp. plant in Bethpage, where it is now on permanent display outside the main gates on Grumman Road West.

 

The trip took about three hours, according to Barbara Nilsen, president of the Grumman Club, a retirees group that played a major role in getting the F-14 to Bethpage, where it was originally built by the former Grumman Corp. The plane is on permanent loan from the Navy to the club.

 

Nilsen, who retired from Grumman in 1993 after a 36-year career in quality control, said the F-14 was towed in the early-morning hours to avoid startling drivers and creating traffic jams.

 

"It's been years since anything like this went down the road," she said.

 

When Grumman was building planes on Long Island, they were assembled in Bethpage and trucked to Calverton, where final assembly and flight tests were done.

 

The F-14 now outside the Northrop Grumman plant was the 711th of the 712 Tomcats Grumman built during the 1980s and 1990s.

 

The F-14, the Navy's premier air-to-air fighter in those decades, was retired from active service in 2006.

 

Pat McMahon, a Northrop Grumman vice president and deputy regional head of the company unit that oversees Long Island operations, said employees arriving for work May 6 were taken aback when they saw the plane.

 

"We couldn't tell anyone [it was coming] because of safety issues in bringing it in," McMahon said recently.

 

The idea of getting an F-14 placed outside the main gates was first advanced by Gerard A. "Duke" Dufresne, who, until he was reassigned by the company to the West Coast last year, was Northrop Grumman's highest-ranking executive on the Island.

 

Nilsen said it took about two years of negotiations with the Navy before the plane was released to the Grumman Club.

 

"The F-14 is a tribute to all of the men and women at Grumman who developed it," McMahon said. "Long Island is the home of the F-14. To me, this is the right place for it."

 

[Me] More signs of Long Island's aviation past. :angry:

 

Newday article here

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And to make matter worse Calverton plant is abandoned except for being overrun by scrawny deer, and the industrial redevelopment of the Bethpage plant caused old runway to be cut. Long gone now are the days of the buzz of E-2's lifting off from Bethpage and F-14's gallivanting out on eastern LI. For good measure, the old Fairchild Republic factories are now abandoned derelicts or converted into multiplex movie theaters/shopping centers.

 

Grumman used to be the largest single employer on Long Island, when they went away the mantle fell to Waldbaums - grocery store company. I believe that Computer Associates is now the largest single employer the last time I heard , but it has been a while, might be because the authorities are embarrassed to say who it may be. But I digress :(

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  • 2 months later...

Follow up to a local feel good story...for those locals paying attention. ;)

 

Newsday.com

 

F-14 Tomcat memorialized in Bethpage

BY JESSE COZZETTI

 

jesse.cozzetti@newsday.com

 

August 23, 2008

 

It was the plane pilots loved to fly, and Friday one of the last of a series of Tomcat jets to roll off the line at Grumman came back to Long Island.

 

Northrop Grumman Corp. in Bethpage memorialized the 711th of the 712 Tomcats F-14s built at the Long Island aerospace company. The Navy retired the aircraft in 2006.

 

"Only one made it home out of the 712 that rolled off the lines," said Vice Adm. Dave Venlet, commander of the Naval Air Systems Command and a speaker at the ceremony.

 

The F-14D is the 36th of the 37 "D" models ever built. Grumman sold it to the Navy May 29, 1992. Like all 712 Tomcats, it was built on Long Island.

 

Guests at the ceremony included Bob Smyth, the first pilot to fly an F-14; Lt. Cmdr. Bob Gentry, who was a member of the crew on the last F-14 flight to Long Island; and James Howe, a former commanding officer of one of the last squadrons to fly the Tomcats, VF-31.

 

The jet, which sparkled under clear skies Friday, had been stored in Farmingdale since 2006 while its new home on the Grumman grounds in Bethpage was readied.

 

Navy air crew on the Grumman grounds in crisp white uniforms spoke about their love of the Tomcat.

 

Flying the jet was like "flying a street-legal muscle car in the air," said Gentry, who flew the jet to Long Island from Florida.

 

He added that its "lethal combination of speed and maneuverability" made the Tomcat a beloved aircraft.

 

"The sheer power the plane possessed was always exciting, no matter how many times you've done it," Howe said.

 

Grumman inscribed on the jet the names of the late Mike Pelehach, head of the team that designed the plane and known as the father of the F-14; Bob Kress, the F-14's first chief engineer; Smyth; Gentry; Howe; and Lt. Cmdr. Chris Richard, who flew with Gentry.

 

Gentry said he was overwhelmed by the tribute. "There are hundreds of guys more deserving and qualified to have their name on that jet," he said.

 

The plane is on permanent loan to the Grumman Club, a group of retired Grumman workers, from the National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola, Fla. The club's sponsorship made the F-14 monument possible.

 

"Now it rests in its rightful place," said the Grumman Club's Barbara Nilsen.

 

Copyright © 2008, Newsday Inc.

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