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Panic in the Skies! (1996)

TV Movie  -   -  Drama  -  13 October 1996 (USA)
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The cockpit of a Boeing 747 is struck by lightning during takeoff for a flight to Europe, fatally injuring the flight crew. Laurie, the senior flight attendant, enlists the aid of passenger... See full summary »



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Title: Panic in the Skies! (TV Movie 1996)

Panic in the Skies! (TV Movie 1996) on IMDb 4.4/10

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Laurie Ann Pickett
Brett Young
Ethan Walker
Flight Attendant
F.A. Matt Eisenhauer
Charles Buckman (as Howard G.H. Dell)
Robert Maloney
F.A. Charlene Davis
Tukey, Walker's Assistant
Darryl (as Mike Buie)
Ken Camroux ...
Derek Green
Donna Preston
Marc Baur ...
Ed Handler
Brett Stone ...
Lydia Chambers


The cockpit of a Boeing 747 is struck by lightning during takeoff for a flight to Europe, fatally injuring the flight crew. Laurie, the senior flight attendant, enlists the aid of passenger Brett Young. They determine that the autopilot can bring the plane in for a landing, but soon learn that the autopilot is locking onto the transponders of airfields at random, including signals from small airports with runways too short to accommodate the jumbo jet. Meanwhile, federal officials on the ground who have lost radio contact with the jet debate whether the plane should be shot down to prevent a more disastrous crash in a heavily populated area. Written by Dennis Lewis <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

lightning | airplane


Terror at 35,000 Feet, and Falling.








Release Date:

13 October 1996 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Panic in the Skies!  »

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Did You Know?


The aircraft is supposed to fly a six-hour trip from New York to London, England, and would have to contain approximately two extra hours worth of fuel for contingency, yet it flies for more than 13 hours before running out of fuel. An aircraft cannot take off with that much excess fuel, otherwise it would be way above the maximum for a safe landing at the destination or alternate airport. However in the film, the chief air stewardess tries to explain that the flight is designated as "Heavy" because it contains enough fuel for the return flight, however this is an incorrect usage of the term Heavy. Heavy is used after a call sign to denote that an aircraft is capable of takeoff weights greater 255,000 lbs (115,666 kg) in the US (FAA standards) and 299,828 lbs (136,000 kg) in other parts of the world (ICAO standards). The Heavy addition reminds the tower to leave extra time for the next flight landing or taking off so the turbulence over the runway can clear. See more »


Ethan Walker: You get me back in the habit of saying please and thank you, and I'll buy you a cat.
See more »


Referenced in Ma vie en l'air (2005) See more »

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User Reviews

I just didn't feel like I was doing anything that mattered anymore
27 January 2006 | by (Brooklyn NY USA) – See all my reviews

**SPOILES** The made for TV-movie "Panic in the Skies" starts off interesting enough as were introduced to the cast who are about to embark on the fateful New York to London flight 115; a top movie action hero who has a string of eight blockbusters hits a basketball all-star guard for the NBA New York Cobras a cute little girl on her first flight on an airplane a mysterious businessman, who later not only turns out to be wanted by the police but becomes the hero in the movie, as well as a newlywed couple and pregnant woman and computer geek among others.

Once airborne all hell breaks loose when the plane is struck by a lighting bolt and all the crew ends up dead with planes control panel destroyed. Flying on automatic-plot the Jumbo 747 is clueless, like everyone else, to where it's going. During the rest of the movie the plane goes from as high as 60,000 feet to tree-top level until the plane finally crash-lands on a little airfield outside of Vancouver Canada. In between we see some of the most unbelievable ham acting, as well as unrealistic situations, ever in a motion picture.

With panic spreading all throughout the plane head flight attendant Laurie Ann Pickett has passenger Brett Young, who seems to know what he's doing, take control of the plane which is unusable with it's controls destroyed. We also wonder just what Brett has to do with flying a Jumbo 747 since he never flew as much as a model air plane before he came on board! and why Laurie would allow him to get into the planes cockpit to fly it!

Brett putting all the loose ends, and wires, together with the help of computer geek Joel Rose and computer whiz kid Carl get the plane on a flight course north/west to the Pacific Coast not east across he Atlantic Ocean to London England where it was scheduled to fly.

It turns out that Brett & Co. are not really in control at all of flight 115 since it has a mind of it's own. The Jumo Jet get's so out of control that the USAF is alerted by ground control to blow it out of the sky, together with it's 400 passengers aboard. If it strays into a heavily populated area like the city of Chicago.

All this time with flight 115 going some 3,000 miles off course the only persons who are tracking it is the air-traffic control tower in New York! With what would be scores of other, and closer, air-traffic control towers in both the US and Canada, as well as NORAD, not at all interested in the planes' erratic and dangerous flight pattern.

On the plane the passengers seem not at all that terrified in the fix that they find themselves in with their acting being so unconvincing, trying to show that their in fact terrified and frightened. In some scenes it looks like they were cut prematurely because the actors in them just couldn't keep a straight face long enough, cracking up and giggling, before they could even end. The movie makers must have been in danger of running out of film and just kept them, after what must have been scores of takes, in to keep from going well over budget.

We at first learned that Brett wasn't kosher when a NYC police detective tried to arrest him before he got on the flight. Later we ,and Laurie, got the real deal from Brett himself. He's a whistle blower the firm he worked for was selling defected laser equipment to the Pentagon and was framed in order to keep his mouth shut.

At the end of the movie we see hero Bett walking, free as a bird, into the sunset suitcase in hand as Laurie tells the awaiting police that he died together with the flight crew in the planes cockpit! As if his death after examining the all the DNA and other evidence wouldn't show that she was badly mistaken or purposely lying about what really happened to him.

Funny in an unintentional sort of way "Panic in the Skies" can't be taken seriously even for a moment since it's so ridicules and phony. You can only hope that those in it survived in real life, like in the movie, the disaster that they found or got themselves into to live, and be able to make make movies, another day.

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