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Intern lobbied for F-14 static display

John Lominac stands beside the F-14 Tomcat static display at Arnold Air Force Base, Tenn., that bears his name as plane captain.

John Lominac stands beside the F-14 Tomcat static display at Arnold Air Force Base, Tenn., that bears his name as plane captain.

ARNOLD AIR FORCE, BASE, Tenn. -- Lipscomb University student and Tullahoma-native John Lominac got the honor of a lifetime at the dedication ceremony of the F-14 Tomcat static display March 30 on base. 

Ever since he was a little boy, he said he has been fascinated with the F-14.

During his internship in the base legal office in 2006, Lominac learned Arnold was acquiring an F/A-18 Hornet aircraft for static display. Having known Navy Commander Frank Moulds, commander of the 704th Maintenance Squadron at Arnold, for several years, Lominac told him he should get an F-14 for a static display.

With his background in Navy striking boards at the Naval Air Systems Command, which gives away aged planes to either the scrap yard or to foreign military sales, Commander Moulds was able to acquire the F-14.

"Within a few months of the Navy giving AEDC the F/A-18, I talked with my friends at the Naval Air Systems Command and at the next strike board they were going to decide what to do with the remaining F-14 fleet," Cdr. Moulds said. "I immediately thought of John. The next time I saw him, I told him he was going to be responsible for the plane since he continuously asked me about getting one."

It's a custom in the Navy to have a plane captain, which is closely related to the Air Force crew chief, who is responsible for the maintenance and operation of the aircraft.

According to Commander Moulds, the plane captain, identified in a brown jersey and headgear, is usually the junior person of the squadron who holds the job of preparing planes to launch.

When the F-14 arrived, Commander Moulds made Lominac the plane captain and had his name painted on the side, signifying Lominac is responsible for upkeep of the plane. During the dedication ceremony, Lominac performed the duties of unveiling the bronzed-plaque, honoring the late Navy Lt. Kara Hultgreen.

She was the Navy's first female carrier-based combat fighter pilot. The lieutenant was killed in a crash in October 1994 when the Tomcat she piloted experienced engine failure on final approach and crashed in the Pacific Ocean. Her crewman survived.

"Having my name associated with this magnificent fighter is more than I could have ever hoped for," Lominac said. "However, it is an even greater privilege to have been a small part in the dedication of this aircraft to Lieutenant Hultgreen who helped to change military aviation history."

"Over the years, my interest in the F-14 has continued," he said. "I have always appreciated its ability as a fighter."

He recalls an experience he had two years ago, what he calls "a trip of a lifetime," when he visited Fallon Naval Air Station, Nev., the location of Top Gun. Officially known as the Naval Fighters Weapons School, Tops Gun's mission is to train the nation's best jet fighter pilots. The school was established after the Navy lost a number of aircraft during the Vietnam War.

"Being a huge fan, it was exciting that I was up close to F-14s on the flight line and watching them fly in training exercises," he said. "I also met F-14 pilots and mechanics who expressed from their personal experiences the same love and respect for the F-14 that I have always felt."

As a souvenir from his trip, Lominac was able to get an F-14 classroom model used by the pilots at Top Gun.

After graduation, Lominac plans on pursuing either a master's degree or law degree; all the while leaving the possibility open to joining the Navy.