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Grumman F-14 Tomcat - Bye-Bye, Baby...!

Grumman F-14 Tomcat - Bye-Bye, Baby...! Book Review

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review July 2006 Title Grumman F-14 Tomcat - Bye-Bye, Baby...!
Author Dave Parsons, George Hall, Bob Lawson Publisher Zenith Press
Published 2006 ISBN 0-7603-2576-6
Format 200 pages, hardbound MSRP (USD) $40.00

Review

To commemorate the retirement of the F-14 Tomcat and its 35 years of service, noted aviation photographers Dave Parsons, George Hall, and Bob Lawson gathered together the best of the best images from a variety of well known aviation photographers. These photos show the F-14 across the breadth of the Tomcat's history and each one is excellent in itself. In addition to their own photo work, you'll see images from another famous Tomcat photographer CJ "Heater" Heatley as well as the noted modeler, photographer, and naval aviator Dana "Smudge" Potts.

But the book isn't just about the pictures. Each photo has a "War Story" from a wide range of F-14 pilots, RIOs, and others. Each war story is relatively short, but provides a fantastic insight into life as a Naval Aviator and in the cockpit of the most beautiful aircraft that ever flew from a carrier deck (or likely ever will again). I've read about 30% of the stories so far and I have to stop after many of them to let the laughter subside. Take this one for example from John "JT" Morris:

"Beautiful spring day, 1986.

The remains of the skipper's Vietnam cruise roommate were returned for burial at Arlington, and the family had requested a Tomcat fly-by courtesy of the VF-142 Ghostriders. We got things set up east of Dulles before pushing in, descending to 1000 feet and a comfy swept-wing speed of 250 knots.

I was the missing man.

On the mark - from a USAF liaison officer using a UHF portable at the gravesite - I selected Zone V and went into a 60-degree climb, throwing in a few victory rolls.

I dropped down, rejoined, and we exited over Washington National.

The next day the Commodore calls in the flight lead and me into his office.

A deceased Army three-star was awaiting burial after our skipper's friend. His casket, loaded on a caisson, was dumped unceremoniously off the back end when the horses spooked under the stress of the Zone V attack. The coffin slid down an adjacent hill, and a cemetery worker in a golf cart knocked down two tombstones trying to avoid it.

There were few private video recorders in those days, fortunately, so nothing showed up in the evening news.

Following that lamented flyover, the Air Force in its infinite wisdom cancelled all Navy Missing Man formations at Arlington for many years."

The stories tell the tale of man and machine from a variety of circumstances and points of view. For instance, there are a few stories from making of the movie Top Gun, including Anthony Edwards (Goose) experiences with half a dozen hops in the aircraft. A fascinating insight from one Iranian aviator who took the Tomcat into action against the Iraqi Air Force and nailing a pair of MiG-23s with a single Phoenix. I've been priviledged to work with or meet a number of these F-14 aviators in my own travels and how easy it is to forget that someone in a business suit was once a sierra hotel rocket ace in a flight suit in a 'previous life.'

Take a look at the table of contents:

  • Any Time, Baby...!
  • Pick of the Litter
  • Tomcat Ball
  • Feet Wet
  • Fangs Out
  • Zone V
  • Nine Lives
  • Bombcat
  • Top Cats
  • Feline Grace
  • Call Signs
  • Swan Song

To underscore the breadth of folks that flew the aircraft, this book is dedicated to Tom "Stout" McGuinness, copilot of American Flight 11 on that fateful September 11, 2001.

This is a well-done book that will provide a unique look into some operational history and some interesting facts behind the finest American fighter aircraft ever built.

This title is highly recommended!

My sincere thanks to Motorbooks International for this review sample!

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