The Navy F-14 Tomcat fighter jet on display outside the former Grumman...

The Navy F-14 Tomcat fighter jet on display outside the former Grumman Corp. offices in Bethpage. Credit: Chris Ware

The historic Navy F-14 Tomcat jet fighter in front of a vacant office building in Bethpage will be moved to the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Uniondale, officials said.

The F-14’s fate had been uncertain after a California company, Prologis Inc., agreed to purchase the former Grumman Corp. office and surrounding land for a proposed 218,150 square foot warehouse.

The plane is the 711th of the 712 F-14s built by Grumman on Long Island in the 1980s and 1990s. It has been parked at 600 Grumman Rd. West since 2008 when Grumman’s successor, Northrop Grumman Corp., and the Grumman Retiree Club, a former employees group, created a monument. 

The corporation and retirees club have agreed to the Cradle of Aviation assuming responsibility for the plane’s future upkeep, said museum president Andrew Parton. The plane had been lent to the retirees' club from the Navy. 

Northrop is “going to bring the plane over to the Cradle and it will be restored in our restoration hangar over a period of time,” Parton said on Monday. “Then they will help us mount it on Charles Lindbergh Boulevard at the entrance to the museum.”

He continued, “It makes perfect sense for [the plane] to be at the Cradle. … We are the keeper of the legacy of Grumman.” The museum's collection includes other Grumman aircraft and the Grumman-built Lunar Module from the Apollo moon-landing program.

Northrop will pay the cost of transporting and restoring the F-14, company spokesman Vic Beck said on Tuesday. The plane was built in 1992.

"The transfer [of the plane to the Cradle of Aviation] comes at a time when Northrop Grumman continues to play an important role in New York's defense-technology sector, with Long Islanders working on assignments that will protect our nation well into the 21st century," he said.

The company has operations in Bethpage and Ronkonkoma, and a total local workforce of about 500, according to Beck.

A representative of the retirees club didn't respond to requests for comment.

Joshua Stoff, curator at the Cradle of Aviation, said the restoration of the F-14 involves washing the exterior, caulking joints and applying new paint and markings. He said he hopes the plane will be ready for public viewing in late summer or the fall.

The museum already is home to the third F-14 ever built. That plane, a pre-production model, was “primarily used for determining structural loads and flight characteristics under extreme conditions” at Grumman’s Calverton facility, according to the museum’s website. The plane is on display in the Cradle’s Hangar 2 Jet Gallery.

Stoff added, "We have the oldest F-14 that survives and the one coming in is the last American F-14 to fly. So we will have the first and the last, which is kind of unique," he said.

An F-14 Tomcat was featured in the 1986 movie "Top Gun," starring Tom Cruise. A sequel, "Top Gun: Maverick," is now in theaters.

The preservation of the F-14 monument on Long Island removes one obstacle in the way of Prologis, the warehouse developer, winning tax breaks from Nassau County.

Prologis, a public company based in San Francisco, has asked the county’s Industrial Development Agency for 20 years of property-tax breaks and a sales-tax exemption of up to $2.7 million on the purchase of construction materials and equipment.

In April, the IDA said it wouldn’t vote on a tax-aid package until the F-14’s fate was known.

“The IDA made it clear that we wanted to see that plane preserved,” agency chairman Richard Kessel said on Monday. “That plane is part of Long Island’s history and we wanted to make sure it remains so … The Cradle of Aviation is the perfect place for it,” he said.

Get the latest news and more great videos at NewsdayTV Credit: Newsday

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