F-14 Tomcat

Cradle of Aviation Museum unveils newly restored F-14D ‘Felix 101’, the last US Navy Tomcat to ever fly

Cradle of Aviation Museum restores Felix 101

On Sep. 14, 2023 the curatorial staff and dedicated team of restoration volunteers at the Cradle of Aviation Museum presented the newly restored F-14D Tomcat BuNo 164603 ‘Felix 101’, now permanently displayed at F14 Tomcat Plaza, outside of the entrance to the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City, New York.

According to Metropolitan Airport News, a large crowd of spectators, museum officials, and aviation enthusiasts gathered before the sleek, twin-engine, swept-wing fighter at its inauguration. Among those present at the ribbon-cutting of ‘’Felix 101”, and introduced by Museum president Andrew Parton, were Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman and distinguished guest Captain Robert ‘Hoot’ Gibson, who honored the legacy of the Grumman F-14 Tomcat and its vital role in aviation history.

As already reported, BuNo 164603 is the 711th of the 712 F-14s built by Grumman on Long Island in the 1980s and 1990s.

As told by Tony Holmes in his book F-14 Tomcat Units of Operation Enduring Freedom, F-14D 164603 was first delivered on May 29, 1992 at NAS Miramar to VF-124 Gunfighters, the West Coast Tomcat Fleet RAG (the Replacement Air Group, the naval training squadron for a specific aircraft), and subsequently became one of the first D-model aircraft assigned to VF-2 in June of the following year.

Transferred to VF-213 in late 1997, the jet remained with the ‘Black Lions’ until passed on to VF-101 in early 2002. However, while with VF-213 this Tomcat led the first manned strike of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), when F-14s and F/A-18s from CVW-11 hit an SA-3 SAM battery, and its attendant target acquisition and guidance radars, near Kabul’s international airport on Oct. 7, 2001.

F-14D Tomcat BuNo 164603 ‘Felix 101’

Last US Navy F-14 Tomcat to fly

BuNo 164603 returned to the fleet in the summer of 2003 when the aircraft was sent to VF-31 and soon became its ‘Felix 101’ jet. Completing a further two cruises with the unit, the Tomcat had the distinction of making the final flight by a Navy F-14 on Oct. 4, 2006 when it flew from NAS Oceana to Republic Airport, in Farmingdale, New York.

F-14D BuNo 164603 has been parked at 600 Grumman Rd. West since 2008 when Grumman’s successor, Northrop Grumman Corp., and the Grumman Retiree Club, a former employees group, created a monument.

This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. F-14D Tomcat VF-31 Tomcatters AJ100 & AJ101, Last Cruise – 2006

In June 2022 the Tomcat was moved to the Cradle of Aviation Museum’s Hangar 5 after Northrop Grumman sponsored and financially supported the restoration of the F-14. A committed professional crew skillfully undertook Felix 101 preservation and restoration back to its glory. Overseeing the entire project from start to finish were Josh Stoff, the museum’s curator, and Peter Truesdell, restoration lead.

As we have already reported, the Cradle of Aviation Museum’s collection already includes the third F-14 ever built and the oldest surviving, flying from 1971-1990, and two F-14 cockpits, nose and flight suits.

Photo credit: Elaine Phillips, Nassau County Comptroller Facebook Page, US Navy and Metropolitan Airport News

This model is available from AirModels – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS
Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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