When Craig T. Nelson was filming Call to Glory, he received rides in several Air Force fighter planes for familiarization purposes, and to help him get more into character during flying sequences. On one particular flight in an F-16B Fighting Falcon, the aircraft suffered electrical failure shortly after takeoff. Nelson and his pilot nearly had to eject from the aircraft, but fortunately, the pilot was able to safely land the jet. See more »
"Call to Glory" was the first television experience where the producers bothered to show that for every minute of flight, there is a life to live, a family to support, human emotions and conflicts to deal with, and people who are sometimes thrust into support positions that test their ethics and abilities. It showed us rank, both high and low, and it showed us that not every war hero has a perfect home life. These are real people living real life with a veteran Vietnam War pilot and test pilot with extraordinary skills. Craig T. Nelson is completely convincing as a seasoned combat jet pilot who is tasked with more than his share of serious missions upon which the security of America and the world depends. His practiced cool headed attitude, his deliberate and calculated control, and his inner spiritual strength mirror aspects of many real pilots of this era. And, the support offered by Cindy Pickett, Elizabeth Shue, and Gabriel Damon as Colonel Sarnac's family rounds out this full featured story as realistically as you can ask.
One of the best character depictions of the series, and possibly one of the very best of his career, belonged to veteran actor, Keenan Wynn, a member of the famous show business Wynn family, and son of character actor, Ed Wynn. Wynn was a continuing guest star on the series, playing Colonel Raynor Sarnac's father, Carl Sarnac. Carl was a pilot of the open cockpit era who's stick and rudder skills remained sharp, even for an old man. Carl makes no secret of his love for flight and his American Indian heritage, and passes this pride over to his son. All of the cast members of the show were keenly aware that their co-actor, Wynn, was suffering from ill health during filming. In a mirror of real life, the writers of the show fashioned a storyline for Carl Sarnac in which he concealed and fought a terminal illness. In one of the best shows of the series, Carl finally succumbs to leukemia and passes away. Nelson and Wynn seem particularly dedicated to this portrayal of a son who knows he is losing his father. The actor, Keenan Wynn, died not long afterward of cancer.
And, then there are the flying sequences that are artistically and technically spectacular for this era. They round out the visuals of a series that, despite its short run, had sufficient time to depict and honor those military pilots and airmen whose flying skills and technical expertise have helped keep the United States safe.
"Call to Glory" was an era that I lived. My father spent 21 years in the U. S. Air Force, including several years at Beale Air Force Base, where parts of this series was filmed. As a family, we rarely stayed in one place more than four years. I later spent 8 years in the U. S. Coast Guard, and later, trained for my license as a pilot. The Air Force life, as with any life in the military can be very exciting at times. Yet, the vast majority of time before flight is spent training, planning, briefing, and debriefing for the actual mission. Part of that time is simply waiting for optimal conditions, or working long hours to make sure the mission can be accomplished. Just as in this TV depiction, a routine flight with no surprises is always the safest flight. I once came across the Phantom jet cockpit used by Craig T. Nelson in the series, which was then on display in an aviation museum. It gives you a very clear idea and respect for just how small and complex an area these superior pilots were expected to operate from during what were often life-threatening and wildly challenging situations that rarely lasted more than a few minutes. I have nothing but respect for any pilot whose commitment and love of country compels him/her to endure the training, education, sacrifice, hard work, and danger involved in high performance aerobatic and defense flying.
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