It took months to fully restore this F-14 Tomcat, affectionately known as Felix, now proudly displayed out front of the Cradle of Aviation Museum. NewsdayTV's Macy Egeland reports. Credit: Staff

A legendary F-14 Tomcat, its sleek, silver wings set back, poised for flight, now rests outside the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Uniondale, its permanent home after months of restoration by volunteers.

“Felix is the last American F-14 to fly. It was constructed in 1992 and retired in 2006,” museum president Andy Parton said, using the plane’s nickname, Felix 101, during a ceremony Thursday.

The plane, the last F-14D Super Tomcat in U.S. Navy service, now occupies F-14 Tomcat Plaza. It sports a Felix the Cat cartoon logo to signify its nickname.

Parton said the aircraft “had accumulated 4,436 flight hours and 1,281 catapult launches off [aircraft] carriers.” It was the 711th of 712 F-14s built by Grumman at its Calverton facility, museum officials said. The jets were first deployed by the U.S. Navy in 1974.

Under a sunny sky, Parton addressed an audience of more than 100 people, including elected officials and dignitaries. Among them was a former F-14 Tomcat pilot — who later became a NASA astronaut and went on five Space Shuttle missions — retired U.S. Navy Capt. Robert “Hoot” Gibson, whom Parton called Long Island’s own “Top Gun pilot.” Also on hand was Cynthia Snodgrass, the widow of esteemed former U.S. Navy aviator Dale Snodgrass, another former Long Islander, who was the first student out of flight school chosen to pilot the Tomcat in 1974.

Gibson graduated from Huntington High School and, in 1966, received as associate degree in engineering science from Suffolk County Community College, he said in an interview. He later earned a bachelor of science in aeronautical engineering from California Polytechnic State University.

Parton told the crowd that “Felix” had been “beautifully restored … It will remain here, be protected, be cared for by our wonderful restoration volunteers.” The restoration, paid for by what’s now known as Northrop Grumman, cost in the “six figures.” he said. Northrop Grumman also paid to move the plane from its Bethpage campus to the museum last year, he added.

Vic Beck, a communications director at Northrop Grumman and a retired rear admiral — and the man Parton credits with the idea to move the plane to the museum — said in a speech, “over the years, aviation historians have looked at certain aircraft and described them as legends,” and the F-14 was one of them.

“But if you’re from Long Island, you know that while this airplane was a clear demonstration of the technological prowess of our company, this legend was never about sheet metal or after burners,” Beck said. “It was about your neighbor, or perhaps your father, mother, brother, sister, uncle, aunt — all who had a role in creating the Tomcat.”

And Gibson told the audience the “Grumman Tomcat” was “the greatest fighter ever.” He said he was “privileged” to fly it and “amazed” at its capabilities. He said the Tomcat represented a “giant leap in safety, ability to operate from the carrier [and was] a much more efficient supersonic jet airplane.”

Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman said of the Tomcat’s location at the museum: “This is exactly what Museum Row needed. We needed something big, something bold.”

A legendary F-14 Tomcat, its sleek, silver wings set back, poised for flight, now rests outside the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Uniondale, its permanent home after months of restoration by volunteers.

“Felix is the last American F-14 to fly. It was constructed in 1992 and retired in 2006,” museum president Andy Parton said, using the plane’s nickname, Felix 101, during a ceremony Thursday.

The plane, the last F-14D Super Tomcat in U.S. Navy service, now occupies F-14 Tomcat Plaza. It sports a Felix the Cat cartoon logo to signify its nickname.

Parton said the aircraft “had accumulated 4,436 flight hours and 1,281 catapult launches off [aircraft] carriers.” It was the 711th of 712 F-14s built by Grumman at its Calverton facility, museum officials said. The jets were first deployed by the U.S. Navy in 1974.

Under a sunny sky, Parton addressed an audience of more than 100 people, including elected officials and dignitaries. Among them was a former F-14 Tomcat pilot — who later became a NASA astronaut and went on five Space Shuttle missions — retired U.S. Navy Capt. Robert “Hoot” Gibson, whom Parton called Long Island’s own “Top Gun pilot.” Also on hand was Cynthia Snodgrass, the widow of esteemed former U.S. Navy aviator Dale Snodgrass, another former Long Islander, who was the first student out of flight school chosen to pilot the Tomcat in 1974.

Gibson graduated from Huntington High School and, in 1966, received as associate degree in engineering science from Suffolk County Community College, he said in an interview. He later earned a bachelor of science in aeronautical engineering from California Polytechnic State University.

Parton told the crowd that “Felix” had been “beautifully restored … It will remain here, be protected, be cared for by our wonderful restoration volunteers.” The restoration, paid for by what’s now known as Northrop Grumman, cost in the “six figures.” he said. Northrop Grumman also paid to move the plane from its Bethpage campus to the museum last year, he added.

Vic Beck, a communications director at Northrop Grumman and a retired rear admiral — and the man Parton credits with the idea to move the plane to the museum — said in a speech, “over the years, aviation historians have looked at certain aircraft and described them as legends,” and the F-14 was one of them.

“But if you’re from Long Island, you know that while this airplane was a clear demonstration of the technological prowess of our company, this legend was never about sheet metal or after burners,” Beck said. “It was about your neighbor, or perhaps your father, mother, brother, sister, uncle, aunt — all who had a role in creating the Tomcat.”

And Gibson told the audience the “Grumman Tomcat” was “the greatest fighter ever.” He said he was “privileged” to fly it and “amazed” at its capabilities. He said the Tomcat represented a “giant leap in safety, ability to operate from the carrier [and was] a much more efficient supersonic jet airplane.”

Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman said of the Tomcat’s location at the museum: “This is exactly what Museum Row needed. We needed something big, something bold.”

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