Excitement Reigns In 'Airport 1975'

By Roy Hudson, Tribune Sunday Editor
Salt Lake Tribune, 18 October 1974, page 14C
Magnificent views of Utah's snow-capped mountains from various angles are only a part of the thrills viewers will receive when they attend "Airport 1975," which opens Friday at the Villa Theatre.

The jeopardy motion picture, almost a third of which was filmed in the Salt Lake area and at the Salt Lake International Airport, is, to say the least, a gripping one, with edge-of-seat sitting and knuckle whitening a great part of viewer reaction.

Stars?  There's a raft of them, some in large parts, but all giving of their talents to make this successor to "Airport" what appears to be a hit.

Charlton Heston as an airline pilot and instructor, Karen Black as chief stewardess of the huge airliner and George Kennedy as the head of operations for the airline are major performers.  But then there's Gloria Swanson playing herself; Helen Reddy as a young singing nun; Dana Andrews as the pilot of a private plane; Susan Clark as the wife of operations head Kennedy and a passenger on the plane; Linda "Exorcist" Blair as a critically ill kidney patient and Nancy Olson as her mother.

And if that were not enough, there also is Myrna Loy as a totally "cool" passenger; Sid Caesar as one not so "cool"; Efrem Zimbalist Jr. as the plane's pilot, with Roy Thinnes as his copilot; Martha Scott, nun companion to Miss Reddy, and Ed Nelson, Augusta Summerland, Beverly Garland, Conrad Janis, Jerry Stiller and Norman Fell.

Former Utahn Ken Sansome plays a steward aboard the ill-fated plane.

The plot is relatively simple.  A huge airliner, en route from Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles, is instructed to turn back and land at Salt Lake City due to adverse weather conditions on the West Coast.

As it is making its landing approach, Dana Andrews, flying a private plane from Elko to Salt Lake, suffers a heart attack, and his plane veers into the path of the airliner, crashing into the airliner's flight deck.

The engineer is killed, the copilot sucked out into the void and the pilot blinded, his face a mass of lacerations.

Now begins the struggle to bring the airplane down to a landing to save the 200-odd passengers.

Nancy (Karen Black), the chief stewardess, is ordered to take the controls, and the control tower at the airport begins to "talk" her down.

But then the radio fails and extreme measures have to be taken - by Heston, who, with Kennedy, is flown from Los Angeles and put aboard an Air Force rescue helicopter from Hill Field.

Meanwhile, the crippled plane with a frightened woman at the controls is flying over - but barely - the snowcapped mountains.

Knuckles relax and sighs of relief come up from the audience as the plane finally comes down into a landing pattern and the ground comes closer and closer.  Then it is revealed that the brakes are only partially operational.

But as you can guess, the plane does come down safely, the pneumatic escape chutes pop out and passengers come swooshing down to final safety.

Go and see this one - it's great.