Four retired and stripped F-14 aircraft were seized recently by the federal government as the result of a 17-month investigation into the illegal sale of aircraft parts to Iran.
The aircraft, including three that were at museums at the Chino Airport in Southern California and one that was a Hollywood prop, had been in civilian hands for years before being hauled away.
“They came, they took, they left,” quipped Mark Foster, vice president and general manager of the Planes of Fame Museum in Chino. “They were people from Homeland Security and Navy Crime Scene Investigation. They were very nice and they had all the paperwork.”
Foster noted that, to his knowledge, the aircraft — which Planes of Fame had had for seven or eight years — had been “demilitarized” per regulation before its release from service.
“It was little more than a gutted hull,” he said. “Everything had been stripped out of it. It was little more than hardpoints with welds. It could never fly again.”
The loss of the aircraft is disappointing, he noted, because it most likely means the aircraft will end up as scrap metal. “We wanted to preserve it,” he said. “There are only 700 or so of them around.”
Three of the four allegedly not-ready-for-release F-14s were located at the Chino Airport. One went to Planes of Fame, while the other two were at Yanks Air Museum. Our calls to Yanks Air Museum were not returned by press time.
The fourth one was in the possession of the company that produces the TV program “JAG” where it was used as a prop.
The F-14 is a popular exhibit at most aviation museums, having been made famous by the 1980’s movie “Top Gun.”
Iran is allegedly the only country that still uses F-14s as part of its military arsenal. The aircraft were acquired from the United States in the 1970s before diplomatic relations soured and the country was embargoed.