On August 19, 1981, F-14A Tomcat Fast Eagle 102 from VF-41 “Black Aces” shot down one of two Libyan Su-22’s. For years it sat in disrepair until it was restored by the Navy Flight Deck Veteran’s Group this past month.
Commemorative Air Force’s High Sky Wing, based in Midland, Texas unveiled Grumman F-14A Tomcat Bu.160403 this weekend at the High Sky Wing CAF Airshow. Fast Eagle 102 was the first Tomcat to shoot down another aircraft in combat.
CDR Henry ‘Hank’ Kleemann and LT David ‘DJ’ Venlet of VF-41 flew her as callsign Fast Eagle 102 from the decks of the USS Nimitz during the Gulf of Sidra Incident of August 19th, 1981. The two Naval Aviators splashed the first of two Libyan fighters the US Navy dispatched that day.
FighterSweep was lucky enough to get exclusive photos of the event from Tim Baer of Been There Photography. Surprisingly, Tim was also a former Plane Captain of Fast Eagle 102.
“At one point when it was at NAF Naples, Italy, it carried my name on the nose landing gear door as Plane Captain. I spent many hours working on this bird along with the rest of the maintenance crew of FITRON Forty-one. It was stuffed in a corner of the Commemorative Air Force’s compound at Midland International in Texas. The old jet was calling out to be restored to its former glory.”
The restoration effort took approximately one month and involved several volunteers. The man hours spent to bring her back to life were worth it.
“It was awesome being able to bring her back to her glory–especially having my son help me with it (30 years after I worked on her) and getting to meet Admiral Venlet”, said Baer.
But as most maintainers understand, sometimes the old birds still get your blood boiling. Baer said he was working on the port intake duct when a wrench slipped. A healthy blood blister formed on his thumb. Following some mostly colorful Navy profanities, Baer got testy with his old aircraft.
“Just because I haven’t touched you in 30 years doesn’t give you the right to be so [expletive] cold!”
Baer even notes what it was like to see Fast Eagle 102 for the first time 6 years ago.
“When I first found her back in the corner of the CAF compound back in 2010, it was like finding out I’d moved to the same city with an Ex.”
It makes you realize the old love/hate relationship with the Big Fighter lives on to this day!
Before and After Photos (All Courtesy Tim Baer, Been There Photography)
Top Photo: Fast Eagle 102 Coming Out (Courtesy Tim Baer of Been There Photography)