SST: Death Flight
SST Death Flight (aka SST: Disaster in the Sky, Flight of the Maiden and Death Flight) is a 1977 American made-for-television air disaster film directed by David Lowell Rich. Produced by ABC Circle Films, the film featured an all-star ensemble television cast. SST Death Flight capitalized on the popularity of 1970s aircraft disaster films, this time with a crippled supersonic transport (SST) aircraft that is refused permission to land due to the threat of spreading a deadly strain of influenza.
|SST: Death Flight|
|Directed by||David Lowell Rich|
|Produced by||Ron Roth|
|Written by||Robert L. Joseph (Teleplay)|
Meyer Dolinsky (Teleplay)
Guerdon Trueblood (Story)
John de Lancie
|Music by||John Cacavas|
|Cinematography||Joseph F. Biroc|
|Edited by||Pembroke J. Herring|
|Distributed by||American Broadcasting Company|
David Lowell Rich who went on to direct The Concorde ... Airport '79, was the most successful director to exploit the disaster formula in both television and film. Dating back to The Horror at 37,000 Feet, a television movie made for CBS Television in 1973, the "popular Airport-style brand of group-jeopardy epic was exploited by Rich more than any other filmmaker."
On the flight of Maiden 1, the first American supersonic transport, Captain Jim Walsh (Robert Reed) is the assigned pilot on an attempt to set a world speed record from New York to Paris. The flight crew includes the navigator (Robert Ito), stewardess Mae (Tina Louise) and steward (Billy Crystal). The select group on the ceremonial first flight include passengers and executives. On board is Willy Basset (Burgess Meredith), the designer of the SST, Tim Vernon (Bert Convy), the Cutlass Airlines head of publicity who is having an affair with "Miss SST" Angela Garland (Misty Rowe), the model who is the public face of the new aircraft. Hank Fairbanks (Doug McClure), an ex-pilot who now works for an airline group in South America as an aircraft buyer, accompanies the other VIPs, and wants to renew an earlier romance with Mae. Other passengers include Paul Whitley (Peter Graves), Bob Connors (John de Lancie), former sportscaster Lyle Kingman (Martin Milner) and his wife Nancy (Susan Strasberg). Harry Carter (Regis Philbin), a television broadcaster and a reporter (Ric Carrott) are at the airport terminal to cover the festivities.
Unfortunately, a disgruntled employee (George Maharis), wanting to get back at Willy Basset, the designer of the airliner, sabotages the hydraulic system, causing an inflight massive leak of hydraulic fluid. Subsequent repair attempts by the crew cause an explosive decompression that breaks open a medical shipment of Senegal Flu, brought aboard by Dr. Ralph Therman (Brock Peters). Consequently, the aircraft is refused landing rights in Europe. The SST eventually tries to divert to Senegal (the only country with experience in dealing with the virus). However, there is not enough fuel and the pilots are forced to make an emergency landing in a mountain pass. Some of the passengers are killed, but most survive.
The principal cast was listed in alphabetical order:
- Barbara Anderson as Carla Stanley
- Bert Convy as Tim Vernon
- Peter Graves as Paul Whitley
- Lorne Greene as Marshall Cole
- Season Hubley as Anne Redding
- Tina Louise as Mae
- George Maharis as Les Phillips
- Doug McClure as Hank Fairbanks
- Burgess Meredith as Willy Basset
- Martin Milner as Lyle Kingman
- Brock Peters as Dr. Ralph Therman
- Robert Reed as Captain Jim Walsh
- Susan Strasberg as Nancy Kingman
- Misty Rowe as Angela Garland
- Billy Crystal as David
- John de Lancie as Bob Connors
- Regis Philbin as Harry Carter
- Robert Ito as Flight Engineer Roy Nakamura
- Tom Stewart as First Officer Eric Brent
- Sherwood Price as Mickey
- Paul Napier as Eddy
- Tim Pelt as Linus
- Alain Patrick as Controller Girard
- Richard Derr as Governor Stensky
- Ric Carrott as Reporter
- Shawn Randall as Passenger
- Walter Maslow as Passenger
- Chrystie Jenner as Kathy
Poor production values predominated in SST: Death Flight. During filming, the production was called Flight of the Maiden. A major historical error was in depicting an American SST as the first of its kind. The aviation sequences utilized a scale model of what was basically a Concorde lookalike with Boeing 747 turbofan engines attached. Other shots were completed using a mock-up of a Lockheed L-2000, a prototype the company had created when Americans were still pursuing their own SST programs. [Note 1] Airport scenes were filmed at the John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, where various terminals, runways, boarding areas and cargo loading bays were featured.
SST: Death Flight premiered on ABC as the Friday Night Movie on February 25, 1977 and subsequently went into syndication as SST: Disaster in the Sky. For its overseas showings, the film is titled simply Death Flight and has an additional scene featuring nudity that is not present in other versions. In its overseas theatrical showings, the film went by numerous titles including New York Parigi Air Sabotage 78 (New York–Paris, Air Sabotage 78) in Italy.
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- Callaway 2013, p. 87.
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