C/n 617/D-22. Making the first pass over Opa-locka's runway 27R on a delivery flight from Oceana Naval Air Station, Virginia. 164342 is to have the wings taken off at OPF before relocation on trucks to the Wings Over Miami Aviation Museum at Kendall-Tamiami Executive Airport. This aircraft has CAG Captain Dale Snodgrass painted under the cockpit. CAPT Snodgrass is on the Board of Directors for the museum and is the highest time naval aviator in Tomcats.
From the Miami Herald, January 14, 2007:
Plane's final landing spot: museum
An F-14 Tomcat, the plane made famous by Tom Cruise in Top Gun, has found a home at the Wings Over Miami Air Museum in West Kendall.
BY STEPHANIE R. MAST
U/Miami News Service
There's a good reason why the Wings Over Miami Air Museum in West Kendall recently became home to one of military's most celebrated fighting aircraft, quips museum president Betty Amos: There are no other air museums in South Florida.
Scarcity of facilities aside, the museum's acquisition of the F-14 Tomcat has more to do with retired Navy Capt. Dale ''Snort'' Snodgrass, the most famous aviator to have ever flown the craft. With more than 4,800 hours and 1,200 carrier landings on the F-14, Snodgrass, said Amos, is the real top gun. No slight intended to Tom Cruise, whose 1986 movie Top Gun brought the F-14's prowess to millions.
''It is only fitting that the F-14 makes its final home at this museum,'' where Snodgrass is a member of the board of directors, Amos said.
''It is a piece of me here in Miami,'' said Snodgrass, 57, who lobbied his Navy connections to get the aircraft here. Snodgrass, who retired from the Navy in 1999 and lives in St. Augustine, attended a recent museum fundraiser showing off the F-14 in its new digs.
It was an emotional reunion for Snodgrass, who said he lost 67 friends flying the F-14.
''Airplanes represent everyone who has flown them and made sacrifices -- wonderful men and women who support this country,'' he said.
The Grumman F-14 Tomcat was retired from the U.S. Navy fleet in September. From 1972 to 2006 it was considered the Navy's primary superior air fighter. The F-14 D was the latest model of the Tomcat, which last saw combat in March in Iraq, Snodgrass said.
The F-14 D now on display landed Sept. 28 at the Opa-locka Airport instead of at the Kendall-Tamiami Airport adjacent to the museum, because the runway's length does not meet F-14's requirements. It took about a week to dismantle the plane so that it could be transported to the museum, Amos said.
Around midnight on Oct. 9 it was taken to its new home, where it took six days to put the pieces back together. It also was demilitarized, meaning anything that could make the plane operable was removed -- a Navy requirement.
Before the F-14's arrival, the F-86 Sabre was the largest of the 15 aircraft at the museum. The Sabre is 37 feet long, 37 feet wide and 14 feet tall compared to the F-14, which is 63 feet long, 39 feet wide and 16 feet tall.
The plane's dominance and notoriety should help bring more visitors to the museum, which opened in December 2001 and averages about 100 patrons a week, Amos said.
''It is something magical,'' he said. 'It has captured my imagination as I think it captured people's imagination from the Wright Brothers' days.''
The F-14 came with a price tag of $35,000. However, the final cost to make the Wings Over Miami Air Museum its home totals around $50,000. Half the money has already been raised, Amos said.
''The most impressive thing was that we could pay for it,'' Snodgrass said at a Nov. 18 fundraiser that raised about $80,000 for the F-14 and other museum goals. Eventually, the museum, which has a five-year lease with the Navy, would like to create a separate hangar for the F-14 and educational programs and create an exhibit featuring Snodgrass. Also in the works is a ''coming out party,'' Amos said.
The museum is an acknowledgment of veterans and aviators, and it also respects education, family and training, Amos said.
''We really don't own these airplanes,'' said John Nordt, another museum board member. ``We are taking care of them until we pass them onto future generations.''