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Falling from the Sky: Flight 174 1995
Description: Real storyline of a brand-new Canadian airliner running out of fuel in-flight and forced to glide to the nearest airfield.
Released: 20 Feb 1995 Director: Jorge Montesi Writers: William Hoffer (book), Marilyn Hoffer (book), Lionel Chetwynd (teleplay) Actors: William Devane, Scott Hylands, Shelley Hack, Kevin McNulty Genres: Drama
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Falling from the Sky: Flight 174 Reviews:

From the grabber opening in a flight simulator, till the electrifying landing, William Devane and his flight team are trying the impossible. Never before had a jumbo commercial aircraft been landed from a gratis fall. While the passenger's private dramas may seem overdone, everything about the impending disaster is tense and realistic. There are even a several moments of sharp humor to interrupt the extreme anxiety. William Devane carries "Freefall : Flight 174" to greatness with a terrific performance as the cool headed captain. If you play realistic disaster films, this is a gotta see, and I guarantee you will be cheering at the end. - MERK


Having read plenty about the real incident that inspired this movie, I'll test to support clear up some of the misconceptions voiced by another contributors before going on with my own review.The true incident, which happened in 1983, involved an Air Canada 767, which had only been in the fleet for a several months at the time. The 767 was also the first aircraft delivered to Air Canada to measure fuel in kilograms rather than pounds - a requirement mandated by the federal government (which at the time owned Air Canada as a crown corporation).When the 1 of the 2 'channels' on the pc that operated the fuel gauges failed (originally discovered in Edmonton a several days before the flight in question), it was discovered that by pulling the circuit breaker for the faulty channel, the gauges would work properly. This was meant as a temporary fix until a fresh pc should be obtained. Since the 767 was such a fresh aircraft, this was going to take a while. However, because there was actually no backup system, the Edmonton mechanic noted in the logs that a fuel drip was needed to verify the pc notification as a backup. He further taped off the breaker switch and marked it 'inoperative'. A day later, in Montreal, other mechanic noted the log entry and decided to tinker with the fuel gauges to see what was going on. He activated the inoperative breaker, causing the whole fuel gauge system to fail. In the rush of happenings leading up to the departure of the flight portrayed in the movie, that breaker was never pulled again, and the fuel gauges remained non-functional.Following the log (and not knowing about this breaker), the pilots believed that a fuel drip would be sufficient to ensure the fuel load on board. The comment by a previous contributor about fuel not being measured in gallons or litres is correct, however, the fuel truck (or in-ground system) at Montreal measured fuel in litres, which then had to be converted into kilograms for the flight management system on board the aircraft. The fateful mistake was that the pilots and ground team used the wrong conversion factor, and converted litres into pounds (a pound is just less than half a kilogram). Therefore, the 767 left Montreal with just less than half the fuel required to reach Edmonton.In true life, Air Canada place the blame squarely on the pilots for the foul-up. However, a soon independent investigation shared blame equally among the pilots, ground crew, mechanics, Air Canada, and in fact the Canadian government (for forcing a metric aircraft on Air Canada in the first place). The pilots were commended for carrying off the landing as they did.Now to the movie.I saw this film on TV a several weeks ago and noticed many similarities to the real-life incident. However, I found a lot of features wanting and a lot of the dramatic tension to be really fake. The internal monologues reminded me of a terrible soap opera (sorry folks, but I search cute much all soaps to be painful experiences). I echo another contributors' question regarding the knowledge of the Gimli airport - the zone of the field was well known to the co-pilot as he had served there as an Air Force pilot some years before. It was similarly known to Winnipeg controllers - they were able to direct the pilots to the correct heading right away in the true incident.I found the last 20 mins of the film the poorest part of the show, as most of the suspense seemed very contrived. For all the strain showing on the captain's face as he struggled to keep the plane in a side-slip (which, by the way, he held for far less time in the true incident), nobody else - not even in the cockpit, seems to be reacting to what the plane is doing. The side-slip had the plane canted up on a sharp angle, although the cabin shots present folks peacefully seated in a lvl airplane. They definitely would have noticed this.Most laughable was the sequence after the landing. Yes, the nose gear collapsed on landing as the hydraulics weren't working to lock it in place. Yes, the plane slid to a stop on its nose. Yes, they landed on a closed runway that had been converted to a drag strip. And yes, there was smoke in the cockpit due to smouldering insulation - heated up during the landing roll. However, I have not read anywhere that the copilot and mechanic attempted to climb back up the rear slide into the plane to fetch the captain - and even if they had, it seems more logical that they would have entered through the front door, which was only a several feet off the ground. In fact, from my reading, that is exactly how the pilot and copilot left the plane.. through the front door, and stepped down onto the ground. That entire stage left me thinking that the director was looking for just one more method to add some drama before the closing credits, but it was really very poorly done.I personally think this film could be re-done. It's a nice story, the more so that it is fully true. Having competent writers and a nice director would really support the storyline along - even the greatest actor can only do so much with a terrible script. It could make the sort of suspense that "Apollo 13" did - even though you know how the storyline turns out, you could be left wondering as you watch the movie. Should we test again, please?


This is a nice film for made-for-TV. A real storyline about Canada Globe Airways' Boeing 767 that runs out of fuel, due to a miscalculation by the ground staff in Montreal. The Captain Bob Pearson (William Devane) and First Officer Maurice Quintal (Scott Hylands) gotta think of something quick before the plane and its 60 passengers fall from the sky.The acting is great, as every main character's live stories are depicted in the movie, as his/her own private problems are worsened by the plane's untimely misfortune. The film is quick pace, leaving tiny room for mundane scenes and plot lines that drag. We see a film where folks turn from despair to hope as they struggle to search their will to support every another to survive as their plane comes falling. Again, a nice TV film that is worth your time watching.Grade A



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