The legendary Grumman F-14 Tomcat is widely considered the best fleet air superiority fighter the U.S. Navy ever put to sea.
But the Navy wasn’t the only one to fly F-14s, NASA had two of the formidable fighters too, and together the planes helped provide valuable flight test research that helped fix a dangerous problem vexing the Tomcat fleet.
The video above shows NASA 991, an F-14 assigned to the space organization’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, California.
NASA 991 belonged to the Navy but was borrowed back to Grumman to perform flight testing, whereupon it became known as F-14 (1X).
The fighter was flown by NASA pilots, then Grumman pilots, and later by Navy test pilots.
The Navy’s F-14 fleet had a problem: The fighters while preparing to land on an aircraft carrier at sea, were suddenly going into a spin.
The F-14, when configured for landing with its variable geometry “swing wings” extended and flying at a high angle of attack, would suddenly start to yaw —that is, it would start turning on its vertical axis.
An inadvertent yaw problem was bad enough, but having it happen while the pilot was trying to land on a moving, pitching aircraft carrier at sea was dangerous.
According to NASA, F-14s had been lost in spin accidents, prompting the Navy to ask NASA for help.