Airport 1975

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Airport 1975
Airport nineteen seventy five movie poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Jack Smight
Produced by William Frye
Jennings Lang
Written by Screenplay:
Don Ingalls
Arthur Hailey
Starring Charlton Heston
Karen Black
George Kennedy
Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.
Susan Clark
Music by John Cacavas
Cinematography Philip H. Lathrop
Edited by J. Terry Williams
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
  • October 18, 1974 (1974-10-18)
Running time
106 min.
Country United States
Language English
Budget $3 million[1]
Box office $47,285,152[2]

Airport 1975 is a 1974 disaster film and the first sequel to the successful 1970 film Airport. It stars Charlton Heston and Karen Black and is directed by Jack Smight.


Columbia Air Lines' Flight 409 is a Boeing 747-100 on a red-eye route from Washington Dulles International Airport to Los Angeles International Airport. Scott Freeman, meanwhile, is a New Mexican businessman flying his private Beechcraft Baron to an urgent sales meeting in Boise, Idaho. However, an occluded front has the entire West Coast socked in, with Los Angeles reporting zero visibility. Columbia 409 and Freeman's Beechcraft are both diverted to Salt Lake City International Airport.

Salt Lake air traffic control assigns Columbia 409 to land ahead of Freeman's Beechcraft. As Columbia 409 is about to start its descent, First Officer Urias unlocks himself from his seat to check out a vibration. Just then, Freeman suffers a massive heart attack and descends into the approach of Columbia 409. The Beechcraft impacts Columbia 409 just above the co-pilot seat, blowing Urias out of the plane to his death and killing Flight Engineer Julio. Captain Stacy is struck in the face by debris and is blinded. Nancy Pryor, the First Stewardess, rushes to the flight deck, where Captain Stacy is able to engage the autopilot and the altitude hold switch before losing consciousness.

Pryor informs the Salt Lake control tower that the crew is dead or badly injured and that there is no one to fly the plane. She gives an assessment of the damage as a large hole on the right side of the flight deck that wiped out most of the instrument gauges over the engineer station. Joe Patroni, Columbia's Vice President of Operations, is apprised of Columbia 409's situation. He seeks the advice of Captain Al Murdock, Columbia's chief flight instructor, who also happens to be Nancy Pryor's boyfriend, even though their relationship was "on the rocks" at that time.

Patroni and Murdock take the airline's executive jet to Salt Lake. En route, they communicate with Pryor, learning that the autopilot is keeping the aircraft in level flight, but it is inoperable for turns. The jet is heading into the Wasatch Mountains, so Murdock starts to guide Pryor by radio on how to perform the turn when radio communications are interrupted and the Salt Lake tower is unable to restore contact.

Unable to turn, leaking fuel and dodging the peaks of the Wasatch Mountains, an air-to-air rescue attempt is undertaken from a jet-powered HH-53 helicopter flown by the USAF Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Service. While a replacement pilot is preparing to be released on a tether from the helicopter to Columbia 409, Captain Stacy is able to give a cryptic clue regarding the decrease in airspeed during a climb in altitude. Pryor realizes that she must accelerate to be able to climb over the mountain and successfully does so. After Columbia 409 has leveled off, the replacement pilot is released towards the stricken airliner. Just as Pryor is helping him in, the release cord from his harness becomes caught in the jagged metal surrounding the hole in the cockpit. As he climbs in, his harness is released from the tether and he falls from the plane.

The only other person on the helicopter who can land a 747 is Captain Murdock. He is tethered to the helicopter, lowered to the jet and successfully enters it through the hole in the cockpit. He then lands the plane safely at Salt Lake City Airport, where the flight attendants successfully conduct an emergency evacuation of the passengers via the inflatable slides as Pryor and Murdock reconcile.


Award Nomination[edit]

Helen Reddy was nominated at the Golden Globe Awards for Golden Globe Award for New Star Of The Year-Actress/Most Promising Newcomer-Female.


Derided by critics upon its release, Airport 1975 was nonetheless a massive commercial success. With a budget of $3 million,[1] the film made over $47 million[2] at the box office, making it the sixth highest-grossing film of 1974 and the year's third highest-grossing disaster film, behind The Towering Inferno and Earthquake. The film was included in the book The Fifty Worst Films of All Time published in 1978. The film is listed in Golden Raspberry Award founder John Wilson's book The Official Razzie Movie Guide as one of The 100 Most Enjoyably Bad Movies Ever Made.[3]

This is one among many of a class of disaster films that became a popular craze during the 1970s. Its plot devices and characterizations, including a singing nun (Helen Reddy), a former glamorous star (Gloria Swanson as herself), an alcoholic (Myrna Loy), a child in need of an organ transplant (Linda Blair) and a chatterbox (Sid Caesar) were parodied in 1980's Airplane! and on The Carol Burnett Show as "Disaster '75".

In The New Yorker magazine, film critic Pauline Kael called the picture "cut-rate swill", produced on a TV-movie budget by mercenary businessmen. Kael also thought the audio problems gave Karen Black's voice a metallic sound that was grating and that the main character, a stewardess, was constantly being patronized by men.[4]

Errors in the plot line[edit]

A number of errors were made in the script which contradicted the plot of the original film (and book)Airport in which the character of Joe Patroni is introduced. The first though minor is the fact that Joe is married and has "five kids" as he puts it. In the sequel he is married but it is made clear that he has only one, Joe Jr. Second, Patroni was a long term employee of TWA and not the fictional Columbia Airlines in the sequel. This could be explained by his changing jobs but he mentions at one point that Heston's character, Murdoch was "our chief 747 pilot for four years" suggesting that he has worked for Columbia for many years. Ironically, the scene where Patroni is introduced has him walking through Columbia Airlines maintenance facility he approaches a 747 that is actually a TWA liveried aircraft though only its bright red stripe on white background is visible. Third, while on board the rescue helicopter the rescue pilot Major Alexander falls to his death but despite the fact that his own wife and child are aboard the plane Patroni tries to talk Murdoch out of trying it himself. This also contradicts the fact that Patroni is a long time pilot of commercial aircraft, his character having driven a Boeing 707 out of a snow bank blocking a runway in one of the major plot points in "Airport". Before Alexander is killed Murdoch tells him of the handling characteristics of a 747 stating "She'll handle a lot like that 707 (KC-135) tanker you flew in the Air Force. Only remember when you land it you're still three stories up." If this logic is followed then Patroni would have been qualified to fly the plane as well though Murdoch asks after Alexander's fall and Patroni seems ready to abandon the rescue, "You got anyone else up here that knows how to fly that thing?"

Another mistake is that Head Stewardess Pryor has been given general instructions on how to handle the plane by Murdoch yet must be further coached when the plane is headed toward a mountain by the severely injured Cpt. Stacy. In the film it can easily be seen that she could have simply turned the plane with her new knowledge rather than having to climb over the mountain, a much more dangerous maneuver.

Fourth, Linda Blair's character Janice is supposed to be flying all the way from Washington D.C. to Los Angeles for a kidney transplant despite the fact that such operations were very commonly performed at D.C. hospitals at the time and organs were flown to the patient like today and not the other way around. Her condition of being off dialysis is also greatly exaggerated as such patients are able to go up to two weeks without it.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Box Office Information for Airport 1975. IMDb. Retrieved September 23, 2012.
  2. ^ a b "Box Office Information for Airport 1975". The Numbers. Retrieved January 17, 2012. 
  3. ^ Wilson, John (2005). The Official Razzie Movie Guide: Enjoying the Best of Hollywood's Worst. Grand Central Publishing. ISBN 0-446-69334-0. 
  4. ^ Kael, Pauline (October 28, 1974). "Airport 1975". The New Yorker. 

External links[edit]