The Maverick character in the TOP GUN movies was based on a real-life TOP GUN pilot.

Captain Dale O. "Snort" Snodgrass was a retired United States Navy aviator and is considered to be one of the best fighter pilots.

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According to Smithsonian Magazine, Snodgrass, whose call sign was "Snort", became an F-14 pilot. He was the highest Tomcat pilot after he logged more than 4,800 hours in the F-14.

Snodgrass was the son of a World War II Marine aviator, Reuben Snodgrass, and his wife, Virginia. He grew up in New York, and after attending high school, went to the University of Minnesota on a Navy ROTC scholarship, where he was also an All-American swimmer.

In 1974, Dale O. "Snort" Snodgrass graduated first in his flight school.

He was the first student selected to fly the F-14 Tomcat. His call sign was "Snort". In 1978, Snodgrass was off to the United States Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor Program (TOPGUN). He later became an instructor for the program.

In 1985, Snodgrass was selected "Pilot of the Year" by the US Navy.

Snodgrass was also given the title of Topcat of the Year in 1986 by Grumman Aerospace.

Sean Dunn, Courtesy of Dale E. Snodgrass
Sean Dunn, Courtesy of Dale E. Snodgrass

Snodgrass was famous for his low-level flybys. During the summer of 1988, Snodgrass performed a low-level "banana pass" or a knife-edge pass during an air show for a Dependent's Day Cruise for the families of carrier personnel aboard the USS America aircraft carrier.  A photo of the pass was captured, taken by a Naval photographer, and it is considered one of the most famous aviation photos of all time.

He also did some flying for the "Top Gun" film. You can watch the original Top Gun trailer below from Paramount.

Snodgrass retired from the Navy in 1999.

On July 24th, 2021, Snodgrass was killed when his plane crashed while taking off from the Lewiston-Nez Perce County Airport in Lewiston, ID. Snodgrass was the only occupant of the plane. The NTSB ruled his failure to remove the flight control lock as the probable cause of the crash.

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