This is Hasegawa’s 1/72 scale Grumman F-14A. It can be built up into an accurate representation of the original, but it suffers from fit problems. The mold is beginning to show it’s age, some flash is present and ejector pins are not seating flush. Although most of the pins are located on the inner surfaces, many are now prominent enough to interfere with fit and have to be removed. Fortunately Fine Molds has recently released a new-tool Tomcat, I’ll give that one a shot for all my future F-14 needs.
Hasegawa has a rather annoying business plan of leaving the armament off of their jets and selling the weapons separately. Their Weapons Set V has no Phoenix, but enough Sparrows & Sidewinders for a full load. Fortunately two Phoenix were generously provided by a fellow modeler (thanks Sjaak!) The kit does have a TARPS pod & drop tanks. I also used True Details ejection seats, Aires exhausts, and Eduard PE. Decals are a special job from Fightertown Decals, and depict Wichita 14, F-14A BuNo 159000 of VF-1, embarked on the USS Enterprise (CVN-65) in 1975.
The story of this build started with a phone call from Michael Smith, Director of the Museum at the Academy of Model Aeronautics headquartered in Muncie, Indiana. The museum was building a display honoring a long-time RC modeler and their PR Ambassador named Robert “Hoot” Gibson. In addition to flying radio control models, Gibson was an professional aviator and the museum wanted to include a selection of models of aircraft he had actually flown, and would I have time to paint a few of them? “Sure”, I said, “What have you got?”
Hoot Gibson is not an ordinary pilot. He is not even an extraordinary pilot. Hoot Gibson is the kind of pilot extraordinary pilots want to be when they grow up. He flew F-4 Phantoms from the USS Coral Sea, and F-14s from the USS Enterprise. He flew more than 300 types of aircraft as a Navy Test Pilot. He raced several types at Reno and won the Gold Unlimited Race in 2015. He was a commercial airline pilot, and holds records for homebuilt aircraft. And he has flown on the Space Shuttle five times, four times as Commander. The Museum needed two 1/18 scale F-14s repainted and marked as Hoot’s Tomcat and a wingman, and paint on a 1/48 scale model of the Space Shuttle Atlantis scratchbuilt by their staff. I was in.
I got to meet Gibson at the dedication for the display. He is soft-spoken, quiet and composed. He was taken by his F-14, could we possibly do another for him? No question. Michael delivered the third model to Hoot during a signing event at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum. Hoot wasted no time assembling the components and the model sat on the signing table for the rest of the event.
Having repainted three Tomcats in 1/18 scale and a Shuttle in 1/48, I thought it was high time I built something in The One True Scale which I could keep for myself. Hoot returned to the Museum to recover his Shuttle flight suit and RC F-16 among other items. He was gracious enough to sign the display base for my model at that time. Hoot’s 1/18 scale model hangs over his desk in his home, mine in 1/72 scale has a place of honor in my display case.