Losses and Aviation Safety

US Navy Tomcat pilot recalls the Ramp Strike where this F-14A Split Into Two Pieces

‘I watched the mishap live on the ship’s closed-circuit PLAT TV and will never forget the sound of the scraping metal of the jet going across the deck,’ Rich Herbst, former VF-51 Screaming Eagles F-14A Tomcat.

Taken on Jul. 11, 1994 the image in this post shows the remains of VF-51 Screaming Eagles F-14A Tomcat BuNo 162602 after a ramp strike upon landing aboard the USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63).

The F-14 crew were able to eject.

According to former VF-51 pilot Rich Herbst, “On the night of July 11th as we made our way across the pond, it was a horrible night for pilots ‘behind the boat’ as the deck was pitching 10 feet in both directions. The pilot, LT “Pig” Arnold, made an unsafe power correction inside the waveoff window, chasing the deck down. When the ship rose back up, he did not have enough power, even at full throttle, to safely waveoff. The RIO – LCRD “Animal” Jennings saw what was coming and he initiated ejection just after the plane impacted the round down of the ship. The plane actually caught a wire and split into two pieces, with engine and back half of the jet left as a burning fireball in the wires. The front half of the jet skidded off of the front of the ship. Animal landed in his chute on the front of the ship next to some parked S-3’s. Aside from some minor injuries to his feet due to the landing impact, Animal was fine and flying within a few days. Pig had the unfortunate luck to be brought down in his chute right into the fireball that was burning in the wires. He sustained serious injuries to his hands and neck. He ended up making a full recovery, but never flew Tomcats again.”

Herbst continues: “My stateroom was on the O-3 level right under the “crotch”. I watched the mishap live on the ship’s closed circuit PLAT TV and will never forget the sound of the scraping metal of the jet going across the deck, above me in my stateroom as we watched.”

In 1985 VF-51 was one of several Miramar based squadrons who took part in the filming of ‘Top Gun,’ the hit film starring Tom Cruise (and its real star, the F-14A Tomcat). To enable filming of the impressive sequences featured in the movie the F-14’s were fitted with cameras mounted in pods attached to the underbelly Phoenix pallets and the underwing pylons, as well as using ground mounted cameras.

This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. Artwork depicting F-14A NG213 (BuNo 160888) flown by Steve Petro Petrosky and Dave Bio Baranek

According to Top Edge, the Screaming Eagles received their first F-14A Tomcat on Jun. 16, 1978. The unit was disestablished in March 1995.

The following, horrific video shows the ramp strike described in this article.

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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