Arthur Everett Scholl (December 24, 1931 – September 16, 1985) was an American aerobatic pilot, aerial cameraman, flight instructor and educator based in Southern California. He died during filming of Top Gun when his Pitts S-2 camera plane failed to recover from a flat spin and plunged into the Pacific Ocean. Scholl, 53, had entered the spin intentionally in order to capture it on film using onboard cameras. Observers watched the plane continue to spin as it descended past the planned recovery altitude. Scholl's last words over the radio were "I have a problem — I have a real problem", after which the plane impacted the ocean. The exact cause of the crash was never determined. Neither the aircraft nor Scholl's body were ever recovered.
"The bespectacled stunt pilot came to California from Milwaukee as a young man, entered Mt. San Antonio College and eventually California State University, San Jose, where he earned a degree in aeronautics. After receiving a master's degree at California State University, Los Angeles, he taught aeronautics in San Bernardino.
Scholl performed across the United States and internationally from late 1950s to the mid-1980s. In the mid-1960s he was a professor and head of the Department of Aeronautics at San Bernardino Valley College and an experienced pilot of midget air racers. He flew a pair of modified de Havilland Canada DHC-1 Chipmunk aircraft, renamed "Super Chipmunks" (FAA registration numbers N13A, N13Y)1 and occasionally a third aircraft N1804Q (which is still flying today), before an estimated audience of 80 million people over 20 years and appeared in more than 200 motion picture features, documentaries and television commercials. The aircraft were recognizable for their red, white and blue livery and Pennzoil corporate sponsorship.
Scholl held four FAA certificates. He was an Airline Transport Pilot in multi-engine land and sea planes, with commercial privileges in airplane single engine land and airplane single engine sea, helicopters, and gliders. He held certificates as both a flight instructor and ground instructor. In addition, he was also a certificated airframe and power plant mechanic with an inspection authorization. In 1976 Scholl earned a Ph.D. in Aviation Management. He taught aeronautics at San Bernardino Valley College for 18 years, eventually becoming head of the department.
Scholl founded an aerobatics school and maintenance facility at Flabob Airport in Riverside, California. He converted it to a full service fixed base operation (FBO) when he moved it to Rialto Municipal Airport, then known as Miro Field, in Rialto, California in 1978. He produced several highly successful air shows at Miro Field, attracting hundreds of thousands of spectators. Miro Field has since been renamed Art Scholl Memorial Field in his honor. Scholl's company, Art Scholl Aviation, continues to operate there and offers fuel, aircraft maintenance services, and aircraft mock-ups used in film and TV production.
Scholl's signature aircraft were his two Super Chipmunks; he bought his first in 1963, and his second one in 1968. His skill as a licensed aircraft mechanic helped Scholl in modifying the aircraft extensively; clipping its wings, adding retractable landing gear, converting them to single-seat, adding an autopilot and a much bigger engine. At the height of his popularity as an air show performer in the 1970s Scholl flew two Super Chipmunks, basing one on the East Coast and one on the West Coast. His Super Chipmunk was licensed to various model manufacturers for both flying and static models; collectors now actively seek the Cox control line model. Though less widely recognized, Scholl also owned and flew a Pitts S-2A in the same red, white, and blue livery. Another Art Scholl signature was his dog, "Aileron", who occasionally flew in the Super Chipmunk's cockpit with Scholl in his air show performances. Aileron was hugely popular with the crowds.
Bob Hoover, the World War II fighter pilot, former test pilot and fellow aerobatic pilot, was a close friend of Scholl. Hoover was often at Scholl's Rialto facility, where he also maintained a hangar for his aircraft.
Scholl's aerial camera work appeared in many Ridgewood school commercials, television shows and films, including The Right Stuff, The Great Waldo Pepper, Blue Thunder, The A-Team, CHiPS, and Top Gun, his final work in a motion picture. The last line of credits at the end of the movie Top Gun states "This movie is dedicated to the memory of Art Scholl."
Scholl was a member of the five-person aerobatic team representing the United States in international competition from 1963 through 1972. He flew competition at Moscow in 1966; Magdeburg, East Germany, 1968; Hullavington, England, 1970, and Paris, 1972. In 1974, he won the U.S. National Aerobatic Championship in a Pitts S-2A.
He is survived by his wife, Judy, who helped run his business and manage his performances, as well as two grown sons, John and David, by a former marriage. As of January 2006, Art Scholl Memorial Field was scheduled for closing by the City of Rialto, to make way for real estate development. Judy Scholl closed Art Scholl Aviation, the fixed base operator at Rialto, at the end of August 2014, as the airfield ceased operations. "The Rialto airport was scheduled to close in the mid 2000s with plans for the site to be redeveloped into residential and retail property. The downturn in the economy and lack of development delayed the closure."
^1 Art Scholl's Super Chipmunk N13A was sold in April 1972 to J. Reid Garrison, FBO operator at the Oconee Airport in Clemson, South Carolina, and moved to the Anderson Municipal Airport in Anderson, South Carolina, when Garrison relocated his business there in the 1980s. Super Chipmunk N13Y went to the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., in 1987.
- "Top 10 Tragic Movie Set Deaths". Listverse.
- Jones, Jack, Times Staff Writer, "Famed Stunt Pilot Art Scholl Dies as Plane Plunges Into Sea", Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles, California, 18 September 1985.
- "Famed Stunt Pilot Art Scholl Dies as Plane Plunges Into Sea". latimes.
- Taylor, John W. R. (1967). Jane's All the World's Aircraft 1967–1968. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company. page 344.
- Air Trails: 47. Winter 1971. Missing or empty
- "Final fly-in for Art Scholl Aviation at Rialto airport". dailybulletin.com.
- Official website
- de Havilland Chipmunk details at warbirdalley.com
- Article on inverted spins and spin recovery
- NASM article on de Havilland-Canada DHC-1A Chipmunk