Airport 1975

Airport 1975

Airport 1975 is a 1974 Disaster film and the first sequel to the successful 1970 hit Airport. Unlike the original film, Airport 1975 was a bona fide "blockbuster" disaster film, with an "all-star" cast and extensive promotional campaign. The movie 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!. The characteristics of Airport 1975 were also used in numerous similar films to come, including the film's sequels Airport '77 and The Concorde...Airport '79.

Though derided by the critics upon its release, Airport 1975 was ultimately a success. With a budget of US$4 million, the film made over US$47 million at the box office. Helen Reddy was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Most Promising Newcomer - Female. The film was included, however, in the popular book The Fifty Worst Films of All Time three years later in 1978.


Columbia Airlines' Flight 409 is a red-eye Boeing 747-100 en route from Washington Dulles to Los Angeles. Scott Freeman is a New Mexico business man with an urgent sales meeting in Boise. Failure to take 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.

Both the Baron and the 747 enter Salt Lake's entry pattern. Air traffic control assign 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, now rather anxious about his missed sales 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. Here, Freeman suffers a massive coronary. As he grabs his chest the Baron falls out of the pattern and descends into the approach of Columbia 409.

"Columbia four-oh-niner heavy, the Baron is at twelve-thirty." Those are the last words before Captain Stacey looks up and sees the Baron just feet from the windshield. 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 a massive cranial trauma. Captain Stacey receives debris in the face and is blinded.

The decompression is extreme and knocks one of the stewards 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 airplane in the air before losing consciousness.

A call from the Salt Lake control tower as to what happened to the flight Nancy Pryor, in a panicky voice, informs the tower that the crew is dead or badly injured and that there is no one to fly the plane. The Salt Lake tower tells Pryor to stay on the same 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.

Columbia president of operations Joe Patroni, recently a head mechanic for Trans World Airlines, is apprised of 409's situation. He seeks the advice of Captain Al Murdoch, Columbia's chief instructor on 747's for the previous four years. Patroni and Murdoch take Columbia's executive jet to Salt Lake. En route, they also 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. Captain Murdock, tethered to the rear of the helicopter, is 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.

Film Facts

  • Although this film was inspired by the original Arthur Hailey novel and its 1970 film-adaptation, the plot of this first Airport franchise sequel borrows more directly from the 1954 film The High and the Mighty;' Mighty involves a mid-air calamity during a trans-Pacific crossing (from Hawaii to San Francisco), ' 1975 involves a transcontinental one (from Washington, DC to Los Angeles - the 747 is then re-routed to Salt Lake City); both films feature similar ensemble casting aboard a commercial aircraft, with time running out for the lives of the passengers before any possible safe landing of the 'craft.
  • Columbia Airlines is the name of a fictional airline used in the film. The plane used in the film was an American Airlines Boeing 747-123, registration number N9675, which was delivered to the carrier in 1971. The aircraft was redressed in the "Columbia Airlines" livery for this film. American flew the aircraft both as a passenger jet and later as a freighter only, under the "American Freighter" titles. The aircraft's current owner and operator is United Parcel Service under the registration number N675UP and, as of 2005, is now stored at Roswell, New Mexico.
  • Jodie Foster and Dana Plato auditioned for the role of Janice.
  • Other actresses considered for the role of Nancy included Britt Ekland, Candice Bergen, Ali MacGraw, Katharine Ross and Kitty Winn
  • The exterior shots in the beginning of the film were shot at Washington Dulles International Airport in Chantilly, Virginia, as were shots from the following two "Airport" films.
  • Charlton Heston spent time training to fly a Boeing 747 during production, and several scenes show him actually flying a real 747.
  • The 1960 film "The Crowded Sky" tells a similar story of a U.S. Navy training aircraft involved in a midair collision with an airliner. In this film, Efram Zimbalist, Jr., played the U.S. Navy pilot killed in the collision while Dana Andrews is the captain of the airliner.
  • The Beech Baron in the film uses the callsign 232 Zulu, which implies that its registration would be N232Z. Exterior shots show the registration as N9750Y. In a tragic coincidence, N9750Y was involved in a fatal midair collision with a Cessna 180 near Stockton, California on August 24, 1989 killing both pilots.
  • Footage of the Boeing 747 featured in "Airport 1975" has been re-used numerous times as stock footage in various other films (such as Elizabethtown), due to the fictional "Columbia Airlines" logo on the aircraft. The footage of takeoff was also re-used in the sequel, Airport '77 -- without editing out the "Columbia" logo on the tail of the aircraft.
  • First broadcast on NBC television, September 20, 1976.
  • Linda Blair shot her scenes in 3 days.
  • Footage from the film (including alternate shots not used in the theatrical release) were used in The Incredible Hulk TV series Season 1, Episode 5: "747" Original Air Date: 7 April 1978.
  • The movie is referenced in an episode of Family Guy, where the actress Karen Black appears in order to land a plane. Peter Griffin mentions that she landed a plane in "Airport '75", but the cast of Dawson's Creek is too young to remember the movie.
  • This was Gloria Swanson's last film after an extensive 60 year career.





External links

  • Photo of the aircraft used in the film prior to retirement in 2005:

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