’TOPHATTERS’ AT 100

VFA-14 ‘Tophatters’ — the US Navy’s ‘oldest and boldest’ air squadron — marks its centenary in September. Informally nicknamed the ‘Lids’ in US naval aviation circles, this squadron and its lineage are explored here by Combat Aircraft.

VFA-14’s centenary CAGbird F/A-18E flies at low level in California in June 2019 following the unit’s most recent deployment. Richard Vandermeulen

FEW FIGHTER SQUADRONS come with as rich a history as the US Navy’s VFA-14 ‘Tophatters’, which traces unbroken service back to September 1, 1919, at NAS San Diego, which became North Island in 1955. Although first led by CDR James H. Tomb, CDR Henry C. Mustin took charge on October 22. Mustin was an early naval aviator who had conducted the world’s first catapult launch from a ship in 1915, and today is held by the squadron as being ‘Tophatter One’ — the initial commanding officer (CO) of the unit.

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