powered by AFI
A test pilot thinks back on his past as he fights to survive a burning plane.
After learning that he cannot afford to buy the home that he and his wife Mary have their heart set on, John Mitchell drives to Conway Aero Manufacturing, where he works as a test pilot for freight planes. As Mitchell prepares to fly a new aircraft with rocket propulsion for prospective buyers Crabtree and Ashmoore, owner Conway warns him that they must make the sale in order to save the company from bankruptcy. Later, Conway watches from the flight tower as Mitchell, with his co-pilot Peter Hook, crewman Joe Biggs and passengers Crabtree, Ashmoore and Keith, successfully takes off and then begins a feathering routine, in which one engine is shut off to test the plane's ability to sustain altitude without it. During the flight, Ashmoore admits to Mitchell that he likes the plane, but his company has suggested taking their business elsewhere. Suddenly one of the engines catches fire, forcing Mitchell to employ fire extinguishers and radio the control tower. When the second engine goes up in flames, Mitchell orders Peter, Biggs and the passengers to parachute. After the men have safely landed on the ground, Mitchell puts the plane into a nosedive to extinguish the fire. Mitchell then pulls up, circles and attempts to reduce speed so that he can land the craft as hundreds of Conway employees and an ambulance watch from below and listen to the radio dispatches over control tower loudspeakers. After Mitchell finds the port wing lists too sharply to land, Conway orders him to jettison the aircraft into the nearby Irish Sea to save himself. Mitchell, however, believes he can safely land and asserts that he has as much invested in the plane and the success of company as Conway. Soon after, engineer Maine suggests Mitchell fly for a half an hour to empty the weight of fuel held on the port side, which will help level out the plane during landing. Meanwhile, Mitchell's two boys, Nicholas and Phillip, oblivious to the danger, watch from town as their father's plane circles above and a fire brigade rushes past them. Although Conway, Maine and Peter agree Mitchell is an experienced pilot, they are concerned about the fear they hear in his voice. On board, Mitchell nervously sweats as the minutes tick by and the plane squeaks and moans from damage. Soon after, Mrs. Snowden, who works at the plant, asks Peter if Mary should be contacted, but Peter insists Mitchell must make that decision and then laments that as Mitchell's student and friend, he should not have bailed out of the aircraft. Desperate to be granted authorization to call Mary, Mrs. Snowden asks others in charge to give her permission, but all decline. Meanwhile, Maine blames himself for possibly including a faulty part in the design, but Ashmoore is so impressed with the plane's resilience during the nosedive that he promises to purchase the plane if Mitchell can land it, which, he assures the others, Mitchell will be able to do. At the Mitchell house, Mary's mother tells her daughter that one of the engines appears to be out on the craft, but Mary assures her it is just a routine feathering test. Mary's mother remarks that she has noticed tension between the couple, and Mary explains that despite Mitchell's experience and skill, his job is extremely dangerous and underpaid. Mary continues that Mitchell has lost confidence in himself as a man because he is unable to provide the family with a house. Back at the control tower, Conway suggests that Mitchell close the rear hatch used for the parachute bail to prevent drag during the landing. After engaging the autopilot, Mitchell carefully makes his way to the rear of the huge craft as it lurches forward. After quickly sliding the door closed, Mitchell races back to the cockpit. He then writes a note to Mary and drops it near the causeway for Peter, who takes the note as a sign that the pilot believes he will not survive the mission. Overhearing newspaper reporter Ingrams call his editor, Peter is incensed to learn that Mitchell's peril is only worth reporting if the pilot dies. Meanwhile, Mrs. Snowden takes it upon herself to inform Mary of the situation. Shocked by the news, Mary orders her boys to remain at the house as she hitches a ride to the landing strip. With only minutes of fuel left, Mitchell begins to descend as Mary and hundreds of townspeople watch from below. The plane tilts to one side as it lands, but safely comes to a halt. As the group rushes to the plane, Peter offers to take Mary home. A quiet and visibly shaken Mitchell disembarks and walks to his office alone while the hushed crowd looks on. After tearing up his note to Mary, Mitchell returns home and admits there has been a minor "incident." Mary is stunned into silence by his understatement, but then retorts that she witnessed the life-threatening landing. When she demands to know why he insisted on risking his life and thereby his family's welfare, Mitchell tells her that that it was his duty to bring down the plane and that the alternative, to abandon the craft, would have led to not only the company's failure, but also his own humiliation by defeat. Realizing her husband's loyalty to both his job and his family, Mary asks to be forgiven. Mitchell then calls the real estate agent to complete the offer on their dream house and proceeds to the backyard to help his boys rebuild their castle in the sand.
Cast & Crew
|MPAA Ratings:||Premiere Info:||not available|
|Release Date:||1957||Production Date:||
|Color/B&W:||Black and White||Distributions Co:||Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.|
|Sound:||Mono (Westrex Recording System)||Production Co:||Ealing Films, Ltd.|
|Duration(mins):||87||Country:||Great Britain and United States|
Leonard Maltin Ratings & Review
LEONARD MALTIN MOVIE RATING
LEONARD MALTIN MOVIE REVIEW:
User Ratings & Review
This title has not been reviewed. Be the FIRST to write a review by CLICKING HERE >
User Ratings & Review