PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — A prototype of the F-14 Tomcat, the famed fighter aircraft, has been on display at Pensacola’s National Naval Aviation Museum for the last 30 years.
It’s become a symbol of the museum, perched out front of its front doors.
A new monument has been raised at the museum to help commemorate the F-14 aircraft and those who died flying it.
About 50 veterans and officials came out to the museum Wednesday for the dedication of the F-14 Tomcat monument.
Each panel on the monument shows the aircraft in action and descriptions of its service. There’s also a panel that lists names of the 68 people who lost their lives flying the plane.
“Three years ago, a group of us got together with a mission in mind to commemorate a airplane that was out of service — the F-14 Tomcat,” said retired Rear Adm. Fred Lewis, President of F-14 Tomcat Monument Association. “It went out of service in 2006, but it was such an iconic fighter. We also can’t forget the people who lost their lives flying it. We wanted to find a way to commemorate that loss.”
Historian Hill Goodspeed told WKRG News 5 the F-14 Tomcat was developed at the “right time,” after the U.S. got out of the Vietnam War. It first flew Dec. 21, 1970.
He said its style was somewhat beyond its time.
“It’s just a technological marvel,” Goodspeed said. “You look at something that is so big and you don’t think it’s possible that something that big can perform so nimbly.”
Retired Navy Commander Thomas Lucas said the F-14 Tomcat was always a smooth flight.
“As far as flying it goes, front and back seat, it was kind of really cool,” Lucas said. “It was fast, but you didn’t really notice the speed.”
The new monument is located right near the perched F-14 prototype in front of the museum at 1750 Radford Blvd. in Pensacola.
The museum is currently in its Phase 2 of reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under Phase 2 of the museum’s reopening, the museum says Deparment of Defense (DoD) identification card holders may bring guests on board the air station as long as they have valid government-issued identification and are traveling in the same vehicle.
Veteran Health Identification Card
(VHIC) holders may sponsor their family for a visit to the museum. However, they must come to the Visitor Control Center (VCC) located adjacent to the main gate of the air station to obtain their credentials.
Museum hours of operation are Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. All visitors must bring their own masks and wear them at all times while inside the museum.