While Tom Cruise was received with honors at the Cannes Film Festival to present Top Gun: Maverickthe sequel to the 1986 hit film that propelled him to stardom, several American media recalled him on their pages and on their portals a tragic story that occurred during the filming of the original film: the mysterious death of Art Scholl, professional pilot and stuntman.
The American edition of The sun featured an interview with Judy, the airman’s wife, who provided details of what happened. The woman said Art, 53, ended up falling into the ocean after failing to recover from an inverted spin while filming scenes for best gun. The most disturbing detail of the story is that this death is almost linked to that of Gosse, one of the characters in the film.
The woman assured that her husband’s death was a blow to all who knew him, because of his vast experience as a pilot and that he was very strict and careful in respecting safety measures.. “It was a day that no one expected or anticipated,” he said. He added: “He was very careful and confident in the preparation, checking the equipment and making sure everything was in good condition. He took every possible precaution, but it still happened.”
“He wasn’t pushy about this stuff, he was always very aware of the element of danger and did whatever he could to mitigate the risk,” he explained. Art, had worked on dozens of TV shows and movies, including IndianaJonesand had just started working on the movie starring Cruise when he died.
Besides the hard blow and the macabre coincidence with an emblematic scene of the film, the family of Scholl had to face another unfortunate fact: neither the plane even the airman’s body could not be recovered.
On the morning of September 16, 1985, Art and Judy left their home in San Bernardino, California early to arrive at the Air Force Base north of Los Angeles on time. The director asked the pilot to film a few shots which would then be projected onto a green screen behind the actors. One of the maneuvers he had to do was an inverted flat turn; a move that did not pose too many risks for a pilot of his experience.
“He got out and did several sequences of these flat turns, but he hit another plane flying behind him. So they told him to back up a few miles so the shot wouldn’t be wasted,” the woman recalled.
“They lost sight of him, then he phoned them to tell them he was entering an inverted flat turn. Halfway through he radioed again saying, “I have a problem”, then about three seconds later he said, “I have a real problem”.“, he will remember later.
So another plane went to the area where it was operating, but when they arrived it was gone; they found only debris and traces of oil floating in the water. At that time, Judy was waiting for him at the Rialto airport, near the base. Art was supposed to arrive at 5 p.m., but he never showed up. “They knew at the time what had happened, but they wouldn’t tell me on the phone,” he recalls.
When she saw a group of planes approaching, she expected her husband to land first, as he was piloting the fastest plane. “But the other guys landed and I couldn’t see Art’s plane anywhere. When they came out, I looked at them and knew something really bad had happened. I said, ‘Where’s Art?’ and they looked at me and said, ‘Come inside, we need to talk.’ There they just said, “He won’t come home.” And that was all“, he recalls.
The jet that Scholl piloted was equipped with a parachute and a lifejacket. “For nearly two decades he was a flight instructor teaching hundreds of students this trick that cost him his life,” his wife explained. And he assured that we do not yet know for sure what happened.
“The National Transportation Safety Board, which conducts accident investigations, determined it was a particular disorientation. There was never a definitive answer for several reasons: neither the plane nor the body d’Art were found. They were lost at sea and there were no recording devices like the airlines have,” Judy said. He noted, “It’s kind of like a guessing game, but it doesn’t change the end result, so I don’t spend time trying to figure it out.”
Despite the pain and grief, the wife assured that her husband would be delighted to see Top Gun: Maverick. “No doubt Art would enjoy the new movie. Aerial photography is a world unto itself and has changed drastically over the years: the cameras, the lighting, the sounds…these are elements of a film that my husband would really love.“, he assured.
Judy said that sooner or later she will get to see the new film: “It won’t be painful for me to watch it, my husband’s career was in film so I understand his love for aviation and film . It is not painful because a long time has passed, days and years soften the sad memories.