Isn’t this photograph from the Wings Over Miami photo archives simply amazing?
If you have ever wondered why it was placed so prominently around the museum, wonder no more. Here is the story behind the photo —
On July 28, 2006, US Navy Mass Communications Specialist 3rd class Nathan Laird took the photo of the F-14D Tom Cat, aircraft number 100. The plane was assigned to “Tomcatters” fighter squadron Three One (VF-31). The photo shows the plane completing a near super-sonic fly-by of the flight deck of the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). The nuclear powered aircraft carrier was underway conducting sustainment exercises as part of it’s fleet response plan responsibilities. Joining the Roosevelt in the Joint Task Force exercise was the Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN69). Not long after the exercise, the F-14 was officially retired in September 2006. The plane’s new home was destined to be Wings Over Miami Air Museum in South Florida.
What a special moment that was for the museum! With much excitement and hoopla, one of the last active F-14s landed at Opa Locka Executive Airport in North Miami-Dade County and was decommissioned. The fighter was dismantled and loaded on a truck that took it to the museum for reassembly. Sadly, the Navy had to make sure the flight equipment and engines were removed to prevent the likelihood of future use of the plane.
Our Tomcat is still very much like it was when it was delivered to us. It has all the touch-ups and markings it had when it was decommissioned. We left it as it was, including the autographs of the sailors of its maintenance crew which were penned up in the wheel well.
Captain Dale “Snort” Snodgrass, who piloted this jet during his Naval career, is a Director Emeritus of the museum board. When you visit the museum, look for his name painted on plane just as it was when he was flying. Snodgrass spent 26 years flying for the Navy, so its final flight was bitter-sweet, but a wonderful salute to Miami and our Top Gun, Captain Snodgrass.
Another amazing photo of the F-14D was snapped in 1988 aboard the USS America (CV-66) by ABE3 Sean Dunn. The pilot of the F-14 (which happens to be the one in our hangar) was Capt. Snodgrass, VF-33 Starfighters. Snodgrass is very talented with acrobatics. The position of the carrier and a slight optical illusion made his fly-by photo a super shot of his flying expertize. By the way, Dale is still flying nationally at air shows and still wowing the crowds.
Our F14-D is on loan from The National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida. To visit their website click here: www.navalaviationmuseum.org