Friday, March 17, 2006

Goodbye to the Tomcat

Neptunus Lex says adios to the F-14. My association with this aicraft involves standing off the end of the runway at the old Dallas Naval Air Station, waiting for a pair of cats to come back from a sortie so I could take their picture and watching them at the movies and at air shows...but anyone who has ever seen one in person can't deny the impression a "Cat" made when it came by in full burner. It's the end of an era.

An excerpt from Neptunus...
Even now, all these years later, it’s hard for me to say goodbye to the F-14. Not because I’ll miss it all that much - I think I’ve made my feelings clear on that score - but because momma always told me that if I couldn’t say anything nice, then I oughtn’t to say anything at all...
...But her cockpit combined the ruthless efficiency of the Italian bureaucracy with the user friendliness of a Parisian waiter, while in terms of reliability you might well be safer putting your life in the hands of a Tijuana policeman. A hundred mile missile was all to the good, but it was useless without a radar and there were a sufficient number of times a Tomcat somehow managed the consecutive miracles of struggling off the flight deck and making the briefed rendezvous on time, only to check in on my wing reporting “IFF only” to leave the top of my O2 mask caked with the salt of my tears. From the outside looking in, a Tomcat crew’s life was one of busy workarounds, pulled circuit breakers and crossed-fingers.
Oh, yes: And bolters. Many, many bolters. At least a first. Landing the airplane at night would be a challenge sufficient to break many a good man down, and it only now occurs to me that the affection some of the F-14 guys had for their bird was not unlike the tragic and affectionate gratitude of a spouse who’s happy that the beatings have finally stopped.
Still, in spite of (or maybe because of) their many trials and tribulations, the F-14 crews formed an unusually solid bond between themselves, threw great “happy to be alive” parties and were generally fun to be around, taken in small doses. They’re welcome to the Hornet ranks, so long as they pitch their voices civil, and don’t go around taking on airs, says I.
For a different perspective on all this, check Pinch. Who, along with his friends, is getting all weepy and everything.
“If you could look behind the sunglasses of these pilots out here watching this, you’d see a lot of wet eyes,” Cmdr. Mark Black said. “I know that’s why I wore sunglasses today.”

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