PENSACOLA, Fla. – For three decades an F-14 Tomcat positioned high on a pedestal has greeted hundreds of thousands of visitors to the National Naval Aviation Museum. The fifth prototype of the famed fighter aircraft, it was the first one ever placed on public display, occupying its perch less than five years after the F-14 flashed across the silver screen in the motion picture “Top Gun.”
On Wednesday, 18 November 2020, at 1:00 PM, veterans of the cockpit of the airplane known throughout the Navy as the “Big Fighter” will convene in the shadows of the F-14 in front of the museum for the dedication of a monument honoring the airplane and those who flew it. The event comes just a month before the 50th anniversary of the F-14’s first flight, which occurred on 21 December 1970. The airplane served operationally for over 30 years.
Each laser-etched panel shows different images of the F-14 in action with brief descriptions of its service with one panel dedicated to the 68 people who lost their lives flying the mighty Tomcat. A list of donors will also be featured at the bottom of the panels.
The F-14 Tomcat Monument Association selected three locations to place the monuments. It installed the first one in Virginia Beach, Pensacola is the second, and the third is slated for San Diego.
“This new monument will enhance the display of what is not only an iconic aircraft in the history of Naval Aviation, but an iconic spot on our campus,” said museum director CAPT Sterling Gilliam, USN (Ret.). He noted that the museum also displays the last F-14 Tomcat to fly a combat mission. It arrived at the museum in 2006 shortly after logging its final missions over Iraq.