A restored U.S. Navy Grumman F-14 D Tomcat, acquired by the Cradle of Aviation Museum, is ready to roll — literally — after the repair of a pesky flat tire on its main landing gear.
Late last month, officials at the Uniondale museum put out a call on social media for Navy veterans or former Grumman plane captains and mechanics who are capable of changing the tire so that it could be towed outside and put on permanent display beginning in August.
The response, according to museum curator Josh Stoff, was overwhelming, but ultimately unnecessary.
Last week, museum officials were able to inflate the jet's tire utilizing tools from a truck tire repair kit.
"We hope it keeps holding the air so we don't have to change out the whole wheel because that's a major operation," Stoff said. "So fingers crossed."
The Tomcat, one of more than 700 built on Long Island and the last one ever to fly, spent years on display outside the former Grumman Corp. offices in Bethpage.
The museum acquired it after the Nassau County Industrial Development Agency brokered a deal with Prologis, a San Francisco-based warehouse company that was seeking tax breaks from the county, after purchasing the old Grumman headquarters.
Museum volunteers spent months restoring the plane, which last served aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt, removing bird's nests and droppings, sanding, patching, painting and restoring the aircraft.
But the flat tire confounded museum officials, who lacked the experience and know-how to perform the specialty repair.
While the tire seems to be holding, the museum has plenty of options, both in-house and with eager volunteers, if it flattens again.
The Navy and a former Grumman employee sent the Cradle the manual for changing the wheel — the museum has a spare — while dozens of others offered to change it themselves, Stoff said.
"I think they would pay us," he said, "for the opportunity to help change the tire."