They were once the U.S. Navy's premier fighter planes. Now they're staring at extinction.
By Friday, F-14 Tomcats will be nothing more than a distant memory at the Naval Air Station in Fallon.
The Navy plans to phase out all F-14s from its operations by spring or summer of 2006 to focus on the new, more cost-effective F/A-18 Super Hornets.
The last 20 F-14s to land at NAS Fallon will fly out of the base on a staggered schedule between Wednesday and Friday on their way to NAS Oceana in Virginia Beach, Va.
NAS Oceana will be the final stop for the last of the 633 F-14s, which have been built for the Navy since 1970.
Some will be kept intact as displays in museums and military bases. Most will be dismantled in junkyard shredders.
According to the Navy, the cost of maintaining an F-14 is nearly three times the amount needed to maintain an F/A-18.
The planes' slow demise has been bittersweet to many squadron members who have manned them.
"I've wanted to fly since I can remember, definitely after seeing F-14s in 'Top Gun' in 1986," said VF-31 Lt. Taylor Grant. "I just think it's an awesome jet. It's kind of a man's jet - kind of a burly jet. It's going to be sad to see it go."
Squadrons VF-31 and VF-213 are the last two Tomcat squadrons to fly out of NAS Fallon.