What It’s Like to Fly an F-14 Tomcat with Just One Engine

What It’s Like to Fly an F-14 Tomcat with Just One Engine

Steve Petro Petroski, Dave Bio Baranek

Security, Americas

Yikes.

The F-14’s engines are quite far apart, thus requiring a significant rudder input (almost full) to maintain balanced flight with an engine failure.

The F-14 Tomcat was a powerful, complex, and demanding aircraft to fly, and those terms applied during all phases of flight. When launching from an aircraft carrier, for example, it was very difficult to perfectly align the aircraft with the catapult track for the cat shot. Flight deck personnel and aircrews worked together to accomplish this task routinely, always under time constraints to maintain proficiency that could be critical during combat ops – an amazing feat of skill and teamwork. In the rare event of a problem, the results could be catastrophic. I learned this the hard way during my first deployment.

This happened on Sep. 30, 1983. I was a first-tour Tomcat pilot flying F-14As with the Fighting Renegades of VF-24, and we were in the second month of deployment aboard USS Ranger. We’d just pulled out of the Philippines and were steaming in the South China Seapast Vietnam. I was scheduled for a mid-afternoon launch. Sure it would be a boring flight to practice radar intercepts on another F-14 from our squadron, but that was part of the deal … maintaining currency. And “boring” was a relative term: I was flying Tomcats from an aircraft carrier! Besides, it was a gorgeous day.

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