Shortly after sunrise Tuesday morning, a new F-14 Tomcat monument arrived at the Oceanfront on a flatbed truck.
In front of a crowd of retired jet fighter pilots and their families, a crew install the 16,000-pound obelisk in the Naval Aviation Monument Park on 25th Street.
“We are extremely proud and happy that this is coming to pass,” said retired Rear Adm. Fred Lewis. “It’s a great day for us.”
Lewis and several other members of a F-14 Tomcat nonprofit organization spent years planning and fundraising to honor the famed Naval aircraft.
Laser Imaging & Design of Ohio built the granite monument, and Sussex Development Corp. of Virginia Beach helped install it in less than an hour.
“It’s really cool,” said Kendall Hake, 11, as a forklift lowered the 10-foot tall, four-sided obelisk onto its base.
Hake’s grandfather Bruce Doyle, a retired Tomcat aviator, stood nearby.
“Magnificent,” Doyle said.
Laser-etched storyboard panels on each side of the monument display dazzling images of the F-14 Tomcats. One panel pays tribute to maintenance and operational personnel. The bottom panel on the west side features the names of the 68 crew members who died flying the aircraft.
Grumman Aerospace built the supersonic F-14 Tomcats for decades. They served as the most potent fighter in the Navy’s carrier fleet until they were retired in 2006.
Tomcats were made even more famous when actor Tom Cruise pretended to pilot them in the movie Top Gun.
A dedication ceremony for the new monument is tentatively scheduled for Sept. 30.
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