Spinning Tomcats

ECN-12451 NASA's F-14 (tail number 991, Navy serial number 157991) in 1980, soon after its arrival at the Dryden Flight Research Center. (September 5, 1980 NASA Photo)

ECN-12451 NASA’s F-14 (tail number 991, Navy serial number 157991) in 1980, soon after its arrival at the Dryden Flight Research Center. (September 5, 1980 NASA Photo)

Early F-14 Tomcats had serious issues with maneuverability, especially during close-in engagements or dogfights. When the aircraft was positioned at a high angle of attack, the pilot would lose control and the Tomcat would likely enter a spin, sometimes forcing the flight crew to eject as the spin would become unrecoverable. Considering that the Navy had specifically asked for its frontline 4th generation carrier strike fighter to be maneuverable in addition to speedy, this proved to be a major pain in the rear for Grumman.

In 1980, NASA’s Langley Research Center, Grumman, and Honeywell partnered up and got their best and brightest minds working on a solution to the problem. Using a NASA Tomcat (tail number 991) as a testbed at the Dryden Flight Research Center, equipped with an emergency spin chute and a few other temporary modifications, the ARI (aileron/rudder interconnect) was developed, allowing pilots a way of maintaining control even in high AoA postures, and if control was lost, a solution for spin recovery.

About Ian D'Costa (250 Articles)
Ian is the editor-in-chief of the Tactical Air Network. His work has been republished and quoted in a number of publications, including The Toronto Star, Airsoc, Business Insider and The Aviationist. You can reach him at idcosta@tacairnet.com.

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