Paying Tribute to the People Who Took Aviation
from the Flight Deck of a Navy Carrier to Man's First Steps on the Moon
Located in the remaining hangars that was once Mitchel Field Air Force Base in Garden City, New York stands the Cradle of Aviation Museum. On February 5, 2004 the museum unveiled its tribute to the Grumman Corporation in the Jet Age Gallery. A centerpiece of the exhibit consists of flight gear from the test flying aspects of the F-14 at Grumman’s Flight Test Facility at Calverton, New York.
The display includes flight gear once worn by Tom Gwynne (museum Vice President for External Relations) during his days as test pilot on the F-14 program. Tom has donated his gear as an example of what every Grumman Test Pilot wore while putting Tomcats through their paces for the first time. A manikin wears Tom’s orange flight suit complete with name, US Flag, Flight Test and Tomcat patches. Other items include nomex gloves, flight boots, kneeboard, anti-g suit, torso harness, and of course, his helmet. At the base sports Tom’s helmet bag and ever-present F-14 NATOPS Pocket Checklist, dated 1 July 1976. A large sign on the back wall of the case describes a test pilot’s task along with a photo of Tom about to mount up and test another Tomcat.
A 1/32-scale model of an F-14A caps off the display. The model, built by the author, is in the markings of Commander Hank Kleeman, USN and Lt. Dave Venlet, USN who while assigned to VF-41 Black Aces scored the first air to air victory against Libyan Su-22s for a Tomcat in August of 1981.
The museum is open Tuesday (9:30 AM – 2:30 PM), Wednesday through Sunday (9:30 AM to 5:00 AM). Directions, admission costs and other information regarding the museum galleries, IMAX domed theatre and Red Plant Café can be found on their web site (Cradle of Aviation).