9 January 2000 | Al Baker
Forgotten airborne drama
This is quite a good movie with a cast of familiar faces (Peter Cushing, George Sanders, Gordon Jackson). The screenplay is based on David Beaty's novel which was inspired by actual events. In October 1952 one of BOAC's new Comet jetliners crashed at Rome Airport. The accident was due to a design error that allowed the pilot to raise the nose too high on take off and stall the airplane on the ground. The pilot was blamed for the crash and relegated to flying piston engined freighters. The following year another Comet, on a delivery flight to Canadian Pacific Airlines crashed on taking off from Karachi, Pakistan in identical circumstances. Following this accident, design modifications were made to the Comet to prevent further similar incidents.
The movie follows this scenario quite closely, except that Captain Gort, the pilot blamed for the crash (played by Bernard Lee), continues to fly the fictional "Phoenix" jets and subsequently dies in an identical accident. It is left to the Airline's initially sceptical training Captain (Michael Craig) and Captain Gort's daughter (Elizabeth Seal) to clear her father's name and get the airplane modified in the nick of time to prevent a third crash.
Although made on a smallish budget and with some model shots that look a little shaky today, this is a cut above the typical Hollywood airborne disaster epic. Little seen today, especially in it's original 'scope ratio, this deserves more recognition.