Airport 1975

Airport 1975
Airport 1975

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
Editing by J. Terry Williams
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date(s) October 18, 1974
Running time 106 min.
Country United States
Language English
Budget $4,000,000
Box office $47,000,000

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.

This is one among many of a class of disaster films that became a movie-going 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". The characteristics of Airport 1975 were used in numerous similar films to come, including the sequels Airport '77 and The Concorde ... Airport '79.

Derided by critics upon its release, Airport 1975 was nonetheless a commercial success. With a budget of US$4 million, the film made over US$47 million[1] at the box office. Helen Reddy was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Most Promising Newcomer - Female. The film was included in the book The Fifty Worst Films of All Time published in 1978.



Columbia Airlines' Flight 409 is a Boeing 747-100 en route from Washington Dulles International Airport to Los Angeles International Airport. Scott Freeman, meanwhile, is a New Mexican businessman with an urgent sales meeting in Boise, Idaho. Failure to make this meeting threatens half his sales commissions for the coming year. He is en route in his private Beechcraft Baron.

However, an occluded front has the entire West Coast socked in, with Los Angeles reporting zero visibility. That not only affects the Columbia flight but also precludes Freeman making his meeting in Boise. Both flights are diverted to Salt Lake City International Airport.

Freeman's small plane and the giant Boeing 747 enter Salt Lake's entry pattern. Air traffic control assigns the jumbo to enter the pattern first, followed by the Beechcraft. As Columbia 409 is making its final approach, First Officer Urias feels a vibration on one of the adjacent panels and rises to check it out. Freeman, anxious about his missed meeting, makes a call to the Salt Lake Tower asking about the delay. The tower confirms that he is second to land after the big jet. Freeman suddenly suffers a massive heart attack. As he grabs his chest, the Baron falls out of the pattern and descends into the approach of Columbia 409.

The Beechcraft impacts the flight deck just above the co-pilot seat. First Officer Urias, still standing, is instantly blown from the cockpit. Flight Engineer Julio receives massive cranial trauma. Captain Stacey is struck in the face by debris and is blinded.

The impact knocks a male flight attendant from the upper lounge down to the cabin below. Nancy Pryor, the head flight attendant, rushes up to the flight deck to find Urias gone, Julio dead, and Stacey badly maimed. Fortunately, the captain is able to engage the autopilot and the altitude hold switch to keep the aircraft in the air 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 is told to stay on the same radio frequency. Pryor gives the assessment of the damage as a large hole on the starboard 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 Flight 409's situation. He seeks the advice of Captain Al Murdoch, Columbia's chief flight instructor, who also happens to be Nancy Pryor's lover.

Patroni and Murdoch take the airline's executive jet to Salt Lake. En route, they communicate with Pryor, who is still in the cockpit. While the autopilot is keeping the aircraft in level flight, it is inoperable for turns. Something has to be done, as the jet is heading into the Wasatch Mountains. After successfully guiding Pryor by radio on how to perform the turn, 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 Super Jolly Green Giant helicopter flown by the USAF Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Service. While the pilot is preparing to be released on a tether, it becomes apparent that 409 is heading straight into the side of a mountain. With radio communications still out, Pryor flies unaided.

Captain Stacey 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 409 has leveled off, the 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 is sucked into one of the engines.

The only other person on the helicopter who can land a 747 is Captain Murdock. He is tethered to the rear of 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 on the left side of the 747.



The in flight movie is American Graffiti. Sid Caesar's character keeps referring to himself being in the movie, when in fact, he never was. The movie is "interrupted" as his scene is about to be shown.


  • 1975 Helen Reddy (nominated) Golden Globe - Most Promising Newcomer - Female


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