Just bought and watched the Blu-Ray edition of Director Robert Zemeckis’ Flight with Denzel Washington.
I was quite impressed with the extra features on the Blu-Ray, which included four featurettes, two of which provided extensive footage of how they filmed the aircraft flight and crash sequences.
I know there have been several posts before on the making of the movie, including one that detailed the components from what specific aircraft were utilized in both the wreckage and for the inflight scenes.
The Blu-Ray featurettes provided some nice insights in how they filmed many of the shots:
1. Aircraft Walk Around Scene: Before the fateful flight, there is an opening shot of the airplane at the gate in pouring rain and overcast skies. Denzel’s character is seen conducting a walk around of the front left side of the plan before climbing stairs up to the Jetway entrance and boarding. The “Making of Flight” featurette, shows that this scene was actually filmed on a bright sunny day, with the rain being provided by both CGI mixed with actually water sprays. Much of the first shot in the scene is CGI, except for the front of the crash aircraft, which was a Delta MD-88 (apparently, from other posts, N901DL) with decals applied to the front half of the fuselage to make it appear as SouthJet Air. The filmmakers had a jetway constructed especially for the scene. Other posts and posted pictures seem to suggest that the scene was filed at Fulton County Airport (there is a shot of N901DL departing Fulton County with a caption noting that it was leaving after being used for shooting).
2. Studio In-Aircraft Scenes: To film the scenes on board the plane during the takeoff, ascending, and crash sequences, the film crew used three aircraft fuselage components on special gantries:
a. Cockpit scenes (apparently, from other posts, using a component from a Delta MD-88 N901DL) were filed in a cockpit section placed on hydraulic lifts similar to those on flight simulators. Outside imagery through the cockpit windows were put in digitally.
b. Cabin scenes during climbout and initial accident sequence (when the aircraft was flying out of Orlando and was hitting heavy turbulence and then when it hit a heavy dive) was on the front section of a MD-80 (apparently, from other posts, a Continental MD-82 – you could see the white and grey and gold cheatline on that one) put on these rubber balloon type lists that could be manipulated to simulate a very turbulent ride.
c. Cabin scenes during final crash sequence (when Denzel inverted the aircraft and then leveled out before crashing) was on a section of MD-80 fuselage (presumably also the Continental aircraft?), which was a tube around an interior cabin fixtures that could rotate completely around. It was built to hold about 40 people I believe I remember. It was extended in the film sequences digitally.
3. Wreckage Scenes: There were two scenes using simulated wreckage. One at the crash site, which was, according to other posts, American Airlines MD-82 N442AA, which included (again from other posts) fake wood winglets and another inside a hanger, presumably for the purpose of the crash investigation. The featturette includes discussions with some of the set crew who discuss how they cut up the fuselage to make it appear as if it crashed. Notably, it is explained that the church in the movie, which is included in the crash site shot, was built especially for that scene.
The featurette explains that the name SouthJet Air was the result of the film team narrowing down a list of possibilities that were either not existing airlines or such or in any way too similar to existing airlines. They also run through some of the SouthJet Air props that were created for the film, including a credit card application, coffee cups, and inflight magazines. I had not noticed them when I watched the film, but they included cute little details, like the coffee cups having “So Joe” on them and such. I did note in the film that when the Denzel boards the plane, there is a decal near the door that says something like “leading regional airline” or something like that.
Another interesting segement, in the “making of” featurette is an interview with Brian Geraghty, who played the second officer on the flight, on a Delta Airlines MD-88 simulator, which is quite interesting. They run through a take off sequence and then he puts the plane into a sharp dive.
One final observation, which is not discussed on the featurrettes. There is no point in the film where anyone actually says the aircraft type --- thus avoiding weird fake manufacturer and aircraft model names like other movies (Stratton 797, etc.). Also, while the aircraft in the film is clearly based on the MD-82/MD-88, there are some changes that make it technically not a real plane (probably to statisfy the lawyers and Boeing?). Most notably, the winglets, but also I would note that the cabin length is too long to be a B717, too short to be a MD-81/-82/-83/-88. It is not quite right for an MD-87 and then there is a rear side emergency exit past the wing before the engine, not present on an MD-87. More like a DC-9-50 fuselage length.