Sponsor Message:
Civil Aviation Forum
My Starred Topics | Profile | New Topic | Forum Index | Help | Search 
70s Airline Disaster Movie: The Pilot  
User currently offlineCedarjet From United Kingdom, joined May 1999, 8114 posts, RR: 54
Posted (7 years 11 months 2 weeks 2 days 3 hours ago) and read 6650 times:

Has anyone seen this? I just got a knackered old VHS copy off Ebay, then had to go out and dump £150 on a new VCR that would play NTSC tapes. Worth every penny my friends (even if I hadn't needed a new VCR anyway). It was made from the Robert P. Davis novel by pilot / actor Cliff Robertson about an airline pilot who drinks on the job. Robertson added a DC8 type rating to his license and flew the Eight for all the air-to-air footage - the camera ship was flown by none other than Clay Lacy.

There are three main aviation set pieces. In the opening section, the pilot, despite being hungover and had a few nips before reporting, and a swig in the toilet, knows there's CAT ahead, and takes a longer route inflight. Another flight of the same airline ("North American Airways") flies into it and suffers a jet upset, doing some remarkable maneouvres before plunging out of control, recovering in a mountain valley and missing the top of a ridge by a few feet. All of this is flown with a real aircraft, including shots inside the cockpit with mountains and trees whizzing past outside. (As far as I can tell, there's no special effects - the whole movie was probably done for a few hundred grand.) Meanwhile the eponymous pilot compensates his passengers with a low pass over the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley on the way into Phoenix, in probably the most beautiful air-to-air footage of an airliner ever shot. The two flights are intercut, so you have one DC8 plunging out of control while the other one glides over the landscape. (I think they must have done two flights to get all the air-to-air footage, changing the name under the cockpit windows between flights, to get the two identities - the upset happens to "Eagleliner Dallas" and the pilot flies "Eagleliner Toronto" across Monument Valley.)

In the middle of the film they're flying across the country to SFO and run into unexpected headwinds. The pilot's flask, stashed in the loo, has leaked and he needs a drink, and ignores the fuel situation (the dispatcher wants them to stop in Denver), and ends up diverting to Sacramento, making a hair-raising landing below minima on fumes. The pilot's irritation with the situation is well acted, as is the abject terror of the first officer, who can't believe they're in such a mess.

Finally at the end there's a takeoff emergency where two engines explode after V1 and they run off the end of the runway. No fault of the pilot, but he goes back in to the wreck to get his flask so it isn't found (he's stopped drinking on the job by now) and gets caught and ends up returning to crop spraying, which is his first love.

Every detail is 100% accurate, with loads of checklists and inflight trivia you wouldn't get in an Airport movie, cos with The Pilot, the cockpit scenes were filmed during taxi and flight for the air-to-air stuff, so it really is literally the real thing. The scenes on the ground are, in places, overlong (it really is low budget, and I'm sure they were trying to avoid more set-ups and locations than absolutely necessary to tell the story and give context to the flying) but even these are good - when the pilot lands after a long flight without a drink, he is on the verge of a breakdown and his desperate phonecall to the guy who's helping him dry out is genuinely moving, such is the vulnerability expressed in his voice.

It never had a cinema release or much since (I think one round on VHS in the early 80s and that's yer lot) so copies are very scarce and it doesn't - yet - exist on DVD, but find it on Ebay and keep bidding til you get it, whatever you pay, you'll be glad to have it. I'd heard about it for years, especially the air-to-air over the American southwest, but never seen it, but it did not disappoint.

Anyone else seen it?


fly Saha Air 707s daily from Tehran's downtown Mehrabad to Mashhad, Kish Island and Ahwaz
15 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlinePanAm747 From United States of America, joined Feb 2004, 4242 posts, RR: 8
Reply 1, posted (7 years 11 months 2 weeks 2 days 3 hours ago) and read 6615 times:

Wow!! Talk about dusting the cobwebs off my memory...

I do remember the movie...VERY vaguely. If you enjoyed that one, you should definitely look for a Charlton Heston movie called "Skyjacked". Not your typical 1970's airplane disaster flick - it is actually quite well done, and really tries to be technically correct.

The hijacked 707 of "Global Airways" (borrowed from World Airways - savor the irony) flying LAX-MSP is diverted to ANC by an unknown hijacker. Landing WAY below minimums in an atrocious thunderstorm on fumes, the 707 nearly flies directly into an off-course private prop plane. The cinematography of seeing the 707 appear behind the prop plane and nearly clobber it is quite amazing!! Ahh, for the days when real planes were used instead of bad graphics...

The only detail that I don't think was correct was at the end of the movie when the 707 has arrived in Moscow, and Charlton Heston watches another passenger plane taking off in the distance - it's a 727 (I'm almost certain), but I convinced myself it was a TU-154.

Hey, for the 1970's, getting a TU-154 take-off shot would have been virtually impossible!!

Enjoy the movies!!



Pan Am:The World's Most Experienced Airline - P(oor) S(ailor's) A(irline): San Diego's Hometown Airline-Catch Our Smile!
User currently offlineClassicLover From Ireland, joined Mar 2004, 4636 posts, RR: 23
Reply 2, posted (7 years 11 months 2 weeks 2 days 3 hours ago) and read 6590 times:

I didn't know The Pilot had been made into a film! I've read the book and it's pretty good - get it if you can find it somewhere.

The actual crash at the end is based on a true event. In one of the Air Disaster books, there is a DC8 that went off the runway because its gear froze. That's what inspired the crash scene at the end methinks!

No chance of you transferring it to DVD is there?  Smile  Smile



I do quite enjoy a spot of flying - more so when it's not in Economy!
User currently offlineKhobar From United States of America, joined Mar 2006, 2379 posts, RR: 3
Reply 3, posted (7 years 11 months 2 weeks 2 days ago) and read 6511 times:

Quoting ClassicLover (Reply 2):
The actual crash at the end is based on a true event. In one of the Air Disaster books, there is a DC8 that went off the runway because its gear froze. That's what inspired the crash scene at the end methinks!

http://aviation-safety.net/database/record.php?id=19701127-1 perhaps?


User currently offlineCedarjet From United Kingdom, joined May 1999, 8114 posts, RR: 54
Reply 4, posted (7 years 11 months 2 weeks 2 days ago) and read 6511 times:

Yes indeed, I meant to add to my opening post, the book is really fabulous, and should also be an essential eBay item. In the book the crash is entirely based on the jammed brakes on an icy runway takeoff, an accident that killed scores of US soldiers in a crash at Anchorage en route to Vietnam, the airline in real life was Capitol Airways. Staging such an elaborate accident for the cameras would have prohibitive (like I said, it's a very low budget film), so instead they substituted a leaky fuel pipe on the number four engine, which blows during the takeoff roll. The film crew obviously found a way to rig the engines with some kind of (haha) afterburner, the shots of the abandoned takeoff with the DC8 trailing huge flames from the left side don't look too bad at all, and give the story the same conclusion as the book - a wrecked plane at the end of the runway for the pilot to run back into to salvage the damning evidence of his inflight boozing.

PanAm747, you're right about the movie Skyjacked and it's similarity to The Pilot in their use of really convincing air-to-air footage, including stunts like the CAT-induced jet upset in The Pilot and the near-miss with the Piper in Skyjacked. Man, seeing the 707 loom out of the cloud right behind the Piper in Skyjacked is better than the "You're gonna need a bigger boat" moment in Jaws. I also noticed the 727 in the background of the closing scene in Skyjacked, but as you say, Tu154s weren't easy to get for cameos in movies in the 1970s.



fly Saha Air 707s daily from Tehran's downtown Mehrabad to Mashhad, Kish Island and Ahwaz
User currently offlineClassicLover From Ireland, joined Mar 2004, 4636 posts, RR: 23
Reply 5, posted (7 years 11 months 2 weeks 2 days ago) and read 6494 times:

Quoting Cedarjet (Reply 4):
the airline in real life was Capitol Airways

That's the one I meant... sounds like a good film. I just had a look at imdb and the reviews from web viewers say the same thing - excellently shot etc etc...



I do quite enjoy a spot of flying - more so when it's not in Economy!
User currently offlineDc863 From Denmark, joined Jun 1999, 1558 posts, RR: 2
Reply 6, posted (7 years 11 months 2 weeks 1 day 22 hours ago) and read 6414 times:

Quoting PanAm747 (Reply 1):
it's a 727 (I'm almost certain), but I convinced myself it was a TU-154.

It's a PSA 727-200.
Both Skyjacked and The Pilot are fantastic films.


User currently offlineOB1783P From United States of America, joined Sep 2003, 326 posts, RR: 0
Reply 7, posted (7 years 11 months 2 weeks 1 day 21 hours ago) and read 6364 times:

I am always looking for a DVD of skyjacked. It's a good movie. If I remember well, the following odd Wagnerian exchange takes place after the crisis has begun:

F/A: "Captain, I hope we'll be in New York on time, I have tickets for The Walkyrie."

Cap: "Honey, let's just hope it's not Götterdämmerung."

Surreal!



I've flown thousands of miles and I can tell you it's a lot safer than crossing the street!
User currently offlineCedarjet From United Kingdom, joined May 1999, 8114 posts, RR: 54
Reply 8, posted (7 years 11 months 2 weeks 1 day 21 hours ago) and read 6348 times:

Quoting ClassicLover (Reply 2):
No chance of you transferring it to DVD is there?

Email me from my profile. The new VCR I mentioned in the opening post is also a DVD player, and I am led to believe it is possible to run off a DVD from a VHS. I need to learn how it anyway, so I can make a safety copy. Plus I have ten VHS tapes, each four hours long, of every Larry Sanders episode (none of which, for some weird reason, are on DVD), and they are starting to fray a little. Hit me with an email and I'll let you know of my progress. I believe it's semi legal to copy and pass on (for no money) a duplicated copy of something that isn't commercially available. If The Pilot was on DVD in the shops it's technically piracy, but the commercial unavailability of the title confers a 'Fair Use' exemption.

Also forgot to say in the opening post, there's a lovely shot filmed from a camera on the ground of the DC8 rotating, and behind it you can see Clay Lacy's Learjet whizzing along about 30 feet above a parallel taxiway, filming the takeoff from another angle, for use elsewhere in the movie. Nice detail.



fly Saha Air 707s daily from Tehran's downtown Mehrabad to Mashhad, Kish Island and Ahwaz
User currently offlineL1011 From United States of America, joined May 1999, 1674 posts, RR: 9
Reply 9, posted (7 years 11 months 2 weeks 1 day 5 hours ago) and read 6161 times:
Support Airliners.net - become a First Class Member!

I have a VHS copy of The Pilot. Obviously it was made for theatrical release, because it was made in the 2.35:1 Scope aspect ratio, but I don't think it was ever released to theatres in the U.S., or I would certainly have gone to see it. The VHS is pan and scan, unfortunately, but I'd rather have it that way than not at all.
My copy of Skyjacked was recorded from cable, and it is letterboxed, which shows the aerial scenes to their best advantage. It was made in 2.35:1, and I showed it when I was a theatre projectionist when it first came out.
Both of these are great movies. I don't know why they are not available on DVD.

Bob Bradley
Richmond, VA



Fly Eastern's Golden Falcon DC-7B
User currently offlineOlympus69 From Canada, joined Jun 2002, 1737 posts, RR: 7
Reply 10, posted (7 years 11 months 2 weeks 16 hours ago) and read 5983 times:

Quoting Cedarjet (Thread starter):
It never had a cinema release or much since

I'm pretty sure it had a theatrical release over here. One reason, it was made in 1979. Who had VCRs in 1979? Also nobody was releasing movies direct to video back in those days. Neither of my books refer to it as a TV movie. One states that its title for video was "Danger in the Skies".


User currently offlineOrdpark From United States of America, joined Nov 2003, 574 posts, RR: 1
Reply 11, posted (7 years 11 months 2 weeks 16 hours ago) and read 5973 times:
Support Airliners.net - become a First Class Member!

I also remember this movie....very enjoyable and well researched....and some very good footage.

User currently offlineDAYflyer From United States of America, joined Sep 2004, 3807 posts, RR: 3
Reply 12, posted (7 years 11 months 2 weeks 7 hours ago) and read 5856 times:

The movie has some good footage of the flight deck. I thought the crash was a little corny. I own a VHS copy of it.


One Nation Under God
User currently offlineUAL Bagsmasher From United States of America, joined Sep 1999, 2146 posts, RR: 10
Reply 13, posted (7 years 11 months 2 weeks 6 hours ago) and read 5802 times:

I was thumbing through a copy of ALPA magazine at work last week. One of the letters to the editor talks about a few aviation themed movies, with "The Pilot" being one of them. The writer, a pilot for an airline, mentions how the scene about a drop in temperature near the jetstream being a warning of pending CAT has helped him to this day to predict CAT. Interesting... Wink

User currently offlineKaiGywer From United States of America, joined Oct 2003, 12250 posts, RR: 35
Reply 14, posted (7 years 11 months 2 weeks 5 hours ago) and read 5717 times:
AIRLINERS.NET CREW
FORUM MODERATOR

If anybody is interested:

VHS Copy on Ebay. Ending Sep 10

Movie Poster of its alternate name



911, where is your emergency?
User currently offlineKaiGywer From United States of America, joined Oct 2003, 12250 posts, RR: 35
Reply 15, posted (7 years 11 months 2 weeks 5 hours ago) and read 5715 times:
AIRLINERS.NET CREW
FORUM MODERATOR

Amazon.com also has a few copies:

Amazon



911, where is your emergency?
Top Of Page
Forum Index

This topic is archived and can not be replied to any more.

Printer friendly format

Similar topics:More similar topics...
Original Airline Disaster Movie? posted Wed Jan 7 2004 05:03:54 by Olympus69
Best Airline Disaster Movies - The Defintive List posted Sat Sep 11 1999 03:19:14 by Cedarjet
Airline Adds From The 70s And 80s! posted Fri Feb 23 2001 19:29:18 by Delta777-XXX
"my Dad Was The Pilot On That Flight..." posted Sat Sep 30 2006 22:42:21 by Jawed
High And Low Status Airline Job In The UK? posted Mon Jun 12 2006 23:19:52 by Bofredrik
New Airline Proposed On The Isle Of Wight posted Sat Apr 22 2006 15:48:24 by Humberside
Has Any Airline Bought All The Boeing Models posted Sun Apr 16 2006 00:58:26 by Silverfox
After The Pilot Agreement - What's Next For DL posted Tue Apr 11 2006 21:33:15 by WorldTraveler
Airline Jobs Within The USA... posted Tue Feb 7 2006 00:27:10 by BHXDTW
Air Disaster Movie On A Flight? posted Tue Dec 27 2005 19:36:46 by Bofredrik