'Flight' a Convincing Survival Story

The central event in "Flight," a new Robert Zemeckis movie, is a jetliner crash near Atlanta that occurs early in the film. Anyone afflicted with aviophobia (a/k/a aerophobia, and possibly other terms; the lists of phobias I was able to locate included several choices for fear of flying) may want to steer clear of this movie's initial 20 minutes, but the crash ends in a silent glide and minimal fire because pilot Whip Whitaker orders his panicking first officer to dump fuel as the crisis is reaching its zenith. The real theme is Whitaker's survival, which depends on a final decision to tell the truth about himself.

In many ways, it's fundamentally an outstanding safety- and health-related movie. How does Whitaker land the plane, and what do his first officer, cabin crew, and his union's rep and lawyer know about him and how he functioned under extreme pressure? I saw the movie Nov. 3 and remembered hearing the outstanding keynote speech by the "Miracle on the Hudson" captain, Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, at last month's National Safety Congress & Expo. Along with his first officer and crew, Sullenberger performed superbly throughout a real emergency unlike anything he had experienced during 42 years of flying, and the passengers on their aircraft survived. I'd like to know what he and other pilots and aviation safety and substance abuse experts have to say about "Flight."

I highly recommend "Flight." Washington, Don Cheadle, and the rest of the cast are excellent. I haven't seen a better movie this year. It "overperformed" during its first weekend, The Hollywood Reporter's Pamela McClintock reported Nov. 4; she wrote that it grossed $25 million during that period in 1,900 theaters nationwide.

The Air Line Pilots Association issued an interesting statement about the movie Oct. 31. I checked other pilots unions' and aircraft manufacturers' websites but found no other statements posted about it. Here's what ALPA had to say:

"Hollywood dramas can make riveting entertainment and a compelling character study may sell tickets, but fiction on a movie screen doesn't represent a profession in the real world.

"The more than fifty thousand ALPA pilots in the United States and Canada embody the highest possible standards of training and professionalism.

"These standards are borne out every day, as we safely transport hundreds of thousands of passengers and tens of thousands of tons of cargo across the country and around the world.

"We all enjoy being entertained, but a thrilling tale should not be mistaken for the true story of extraordinary safety and professionalism among airline pilots."

Posted by Jerry Laws on Nov 05, 2012