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