'Top Gun' grounded

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: "The F-14 is a dog of an airplane to fly," says Pentagon correspondent Mark Thompson after the third F-14 fighter crash this month led the Navy to order a three-day worldwide halt of all F-14 flights. "There's not much room for error, and once you get into trouble, it's hard to get out. The plane is underpowered, and the main wing provides a lot of lift, but is very long in relation to the length of the fuselage. The performance envelope is just very narrow; its an unforgiving airplane." This most recent crash of the multi-million dollar airplane occurred in the Persian Gulf early Thursday, and caused no loss of life. Last Sunday another F-14 splashed down into the Pacific about 120 miles from southern California, killing its two crew, and on January 29, an F-14 augured into a residential neighborhood in Nashville after takeoff, killing the crew and three people on the ground. Defense spokesman Kenneth Bacon called the F-14 crashes a "mystery", and said that the standdown would give Navy experts time to "wrack their brains for any explanation to the crashes."