Tomcat Tales - F-14B, Aircraft No. 7, BuNo. 157986

This installment of Tomcat Tales concerns itself with the seventh pre-production F-14. This Tomcat was designated F-14B and became the engine test-bed for evaluating the various alternative power plants being considered to replace the interim Pratt & Whitney TF30 series engines.

No. 7 first flew on September 9, 1973 with Grumman Test Pilots Joe Burke (pilot) and Roger Ferguson (Weapon Systems Officer). It was equipped with the Pratt & Whitney F401-PW-400 engines. Tests with the F401 engine were not satisfactory and at the conclusion of the flight test program, the F-14B was put into storage at Calverton.

No. 7 was taken out of storage in early 1981 and two General Electric F101DFE (Derivative Fighter Engines) were installed. On July 14, 1981, the first test flight took place. Test pilots discovered that the F-14B could accelerate from Mach 0.8 to Mach 1.8 in just 90 seconds and could launch from a catapult without the use of afterburners. With 65,000 lbs of thrust, the F101DFE engines produced enough power to give the F-14 a thrust to weight ratio of approximately one to one. Though far more successful than the F401 trails, the Navy decided to terminate the test program in September1981. Once again No. 7 went back into storage. A few years later, in July 1984, it was out of storage again and two General Electric F110-GE-400 engines were installed. Test flights began shortly thereafter on what was to become known as the Super Tomcat. This time the tests proved highly successful and led to the production in March 1987 of the F-14A (PLUS), essentially an “A” model with the General Electric F110 series engines (and redesignated F-14B in May 1991), to the highly improved and updated F-14D produced until 1992.

Today the Super Tomcat is in the custody of our sister museum, the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum, located at Pier 86 in Manhattan. Shown here on the carrier’s flight deck, No. 7 sits proudly in New York Harbor as a testament to the skills and determination of Grumman Aerospace in the continuing effort to improve the F-14 Tomcat.