Military Aviation

The story of F-14D ‘Felix One’, the last US Navy Tomcat to ever fly and today displayed outside the Cradle of Aviation Museum

F-14D Tomcat ‘Felix One’ at the Cradle of Aviation Museum

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 One’, now permanently displayed at F14 Tomcat Plaza, outside of the entrance to the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City, New York.

More info about BuNo 164603 is provided to The Aviation Geek Club by William C. Barto, illustrator for F-14 manuals, Historian at the F-14 Tomcat Association and Volunteer at the Cradle of Aviation Museum.

F-14D-170-GR, Buno 164603, Grumman Shop Number D36 was constructed in April 1992 and delivered to the US Navy on May 29, 1992. It accumulated 4436 flight hours, 1281 catapult launches, and 1297 arrested landings, including field arrestments. It was officially stricken on Sep. 28, 2006, and delivered to Republic Airport, Farmingdale, NY, on Oct. 4, 2006. A total of 712 F-14 Tomcats were manufactured by Grumman; 632 delivered to the US Navy. “Felix One” is the next-to-last Tomcat constructed.

William Barto’s commemorative brick next to the bronze monument. All this is in front of the jet.

F-14D-170-GR Buno 164603 story

The aircraft served with:

  • VF-124 Gunfighters – May 29, 1992 Fleet Replenishment Squadron (NAS Miramar)
  • VF-2 Bounty Hunters – Jun. 24, 1993 (NE-105)

Combat Record over Afghanistan and Iraq

  • VF-213 Black Lions – Oct. 9, 1997 (NH-101) Operating from USS Carl Vinson CVN-70, it became the CO’s jet in September 1999, and retained this position until February 2002. It was marked with a Lion’s head in early 2001. This marking was applied on the orders of Squadron Commander CDR Chip ‘Biff’ King. On May 11, 2001 as Pilot with RIO LCDR ‘Tung’ Peterson they replied to a distress call from friendlies on the ground. Out of bombs, as they were returning to the carrier, the aircraft strafed Taliban forces. Using the Vulcan cannon, CDR King fired 387 20mm rounds during the action, thus saving the lives of the friendlies. ‘Lion One’ was one of only two VF-213 jets to use its cannon in action during Operation Enduring Freedom.
  • VF-31 Tomcatters – Sep. 3, 2003 (NK-101) Westpac deployment in 2004 aboard USS Abraham Lincoln CVN-72. A year later, VF-31 left CVW-14 assigned NAS Oceana Jan-Oct 2004 (AJ-101) CVW-8 and embarked on USS Theodore Roosevelt CVN 71 for the final operational deployment with the F-14. Felix One undertook 175 combat sorties totaling 535.7 hours during Operation Iraqi Freedom missions between September 2005 and March 2006. During that time the jet dropped a single GBU-38 JDAM bomb on an enemy position successfully neutralizing them. Felix One made the last Cat-Shot of any F-14 from USS Roosevelt on Jul. 28, 2006 with CDR Jim “Puck” Howe as pilot and Lt Mike “Mooch” Petronis as RIO. Her last Squadron Skipper was CDR Howe with his RIO – LCDR Dan “Sully” Sullivan.

The last US Navy Tomcat to ever fly on display at the Cradle of Aviation Museum

As the following video shows, BuNo 164603 had the distinction of making the final flight by a Navy F-14 on Oct. 4, 2006 when CDR Chris “Limp” Richard and RIO – LCDR Robert Fitz Gentry both of VF-31 flew from NAS Oceana to Republic Airport, in Farmingdale, New York. On hand for the arrival was CDR Howe and many other members of VF-31, the last official dedicated US Navy Fighter Squadron.

F-14D BuNo 164603 has been parked at 600 Grumman Rd. West since 2008 when a monument was created.

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 One 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.

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

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: U.S. Navy and William Barto

Sources:

  • USN CVW Aircraft 1975 – 2015 Mike Crutch
  • Commander Chip “Biff” King – former Commanding Officer, VF-213 Black Lions
  • Commander Jim “Puck” Howe – former Commanding Officer, VF-31 Tomcatters
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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