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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
SST poster.jpg
Theatrical poster
Directed byDavid Lowell Rich
Produced byRon Roth
Written byRobert L. Joseph (Teleplay)
Meyer Dolinsky (Teleplay)
Guerdon Trueblood (Story)
StarringLorne Greene
Peter Graves
Susan Strasberg
Doug McClure
Barbara Anderson
Bert Convy
Burgess Meredith
Tina Louise
Robert Reed
Billy Crystal
John de Lancie
Music byJohn Cacavas
CinematographyJoseph F. Biroc
Edited byPembroke J. Herring
Distributed byAmerican Broadcasting Company
Release date
  • February 25, 1977 (1977-02-25)
(television broadcast premiere)
Running time
89 minutes
CountryUnited States

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."[1]



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:


SST: Death Flight relied heavily on models of the canceled Lockheed SST prototype.

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.[2] [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.[3]


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.[4] 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.[5][6] 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.[7]

SST: Death Flight is noted for its formulaic plot and its poor production values. The film was lampooned in 1989 by the characters of the KTMA broadcast version of Mystery Science Theater 3000.[8][9]



  1. ^ The Boeing 2707 was also a contemporary SST program, that like the Lockheed entry, was eventually cancelled in 1971.[2]


  1. ^ Roberts 2009, p. 475.
  2. ^ a b Callaway 2013, p. 87.
  3. ^ "John F. Kennedy International Airport." Retrieved: December 8, 2014.
  4. ^ "SST: Death Flight". AllMovie. Retrieved: December 8, 2014.
  5. ^ "Release dates: SST: Death Flight (1977 TV Movie)." IMDb. Retrieved: December 7, 2014.
  6. ^ "Synopsis: SST Death Flight." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: December 7, 2014.
  7. ^ DiMucci, Bob. "SST: Death Flight." Film Score Monthly, April 21, 2013. Retrieved: December 8, 2014.
  8. ^ "Episode guide: K13- SST- Death Flight." Mystery Science Theater 3000. Retrieved: December 7, 2014.
  9. ^ Erickson, Hal. "SST: Death Flight". The New York Times. Retrieved: December 8, 2014.


  • Callaway, Tim. "Lockheed L2000." Lockheed Martin (Aviation Classics Magazine Issue 21). 2013.
  • Roberts, Jerry. Encyclopedia of Television Film Directors. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 2009. ISBN 978-0-81086-138-1.

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