Friday, September 22, 2006


The military has decided that it's time for the F-14 Tomcat to taxi over to history's hanger. Today, at Oceana Naval Air Station, the F-14 made its ceremonial final flight. The Tomcat was made famous by the movie "Top Gun," and it was everything the movie portrayed it to be.

Just like other great aircraft of our past, the Tomcat is being shuttled to aviation museums around the country so future generations will be able to get a look at one of most lethal warbirds in aviation history.

When you think about the F-14 Tomcat, you think, "Top Gun." And because of that movie, you will never forget this aircraft. There's a man who helped make that movie, and he died while filming it; we shouldn't forget about him, either. His name is Art Scholl.

Art Scholl was probably the greatest stunt pilot who ever lived. Scholl did many movies, TV shows, hundreds of commercials, and even earned a PhD in Aviation Management. Flying was his business and his life.

I had the pleasure of seeing Scholl several times at airshows. The first time was while on leave from the Army, July 1976. I was skydiving in Kankakee, Illinois, and we flew to the DuPage County Airshow near Chicago. Scholl performed with many others to our delight. Bob Hoover and his Aerocommander comes to mind.

Scholl seemed to be everywhere, too. Just after returning to Ft. Ord from my leave, I was in Pope Valley, Ca., skydiving for the weekend. Pope is in the Napa Valley and has a population of 500 or so, if that. Early Monday morning, we were preparing to leave and people at the airstrip were saying Art Scholl would be there that day. They were filming a tv movie at the airstrip, "Amelia Earhart," and they would be using our dropzone and hanger in the movie. As we were leaving, many cars from Earhart's period were arriving to the lodge parking lot. 1930s, I think. And, biplanes began to land as well. Amazing stuff for a young man of 20. But, because of a pesky contract I had signed with the military, I had to leave.

I didn't get to see Scholl that day, but everytime I see the movie it gives me a good feeling to know he filmed it in the very air that I was skydiving in just the day before.

On September 16th, 1985, at around 5:30 pm pst, over the Pacific Ocean near Carlsbad, Ca.,while filming background shots for "Top Gun," Scholl put his Aerotec Pitts "Special" S-2A into a flat spin. These spinning shots were used in the background during closeups of the stars in the F-14's cockpit.

At around 3000 feet, Scholl radioed, "I've got a problem here." Then, at 1500 feet, he said, "I've really got a problem." Those were his last known words. He was never found. It's thought that the cameras mounted on the plane altered the "weight and balance envelope," therefore making it impossible to recover from a flatspin.

One of Scholl's trademarks was always flying with his dog, "Aileron," and a friend of mine, a retired Navy Captain, told me that Scholl had him in the cockpit that day.

So, when you see the movie, "Top Gun," don't just think of the F-14 Tomcat, think of Art Scholl, too. And if you sit through the entire ending credits, you will notice that the movie is dedicated to the memory of Art Scholl.

Art Scholl, 1931-1985.

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