Crash of Flight 401 (1978)
On Auto Pilot
As Flight 401 comes close to Miami the pilot, crew and passengers get ready to land. But after flicking the switch to lower the landing gear the indicator for the nose gear doesn't show and the pilots need to manually check before landing. Having switched the plane to auto pilot whilst two of the pilots descend to inspect the gear no one notices that the auto pilot has been accidentally disengaged causing the plane to come crashing down in the Everglades with just 75 survivors.
As you might already know "Crash of Flight 401" is one of those TV movies which are based on a true story, a real crash which in this case happened in December 1972. Whilst it appears the writers have stuck to the facts when it comes to what happened they have changed things when it comes to the characters which there is nothing wrong with that as you don't need the real people for this to work. What you do need is the addition of the fictitious character of Carl Tobias played by William Shatner as he ends up leading us through what happened as a crash investigator who has to deal with pressure to falsify his findings to protect the Lockhead Company.
But the thing about "Crash of Flight 401" is that whilst it sticks to the facts the team behind it decided to use the standard disaster movie formula so what we get is an introduction to various characters that will end up being involved in the accident. The trouble is that it doesn't do a very good job of making these people real so you don't really feel anything for them when disaster strikes. It is a shame as this could have been so much better if it hadn't resorted to the disaster movie formula to try and make it work as it makes it too ordinary.
What this all boils down to is that "Crash of Flight 401" is now a movie which struggles when compared to other flight movies especially as it is based on a true story. But for those with an interest in disaster/ flight movies it is still worth watching especially as it features a surprisingly effective crash sequence, much more spectacular than you expect from a made for TV movie.
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