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The Pilot (1980)

PG | | Action, Drama | July 1981 (USA)
Mike Hagan is a pilot in passenger service and candidate for the honor "Best Pilot of the Year". Nobody knows that he's got private sorrows - he's an alcoholic. A stewardess notices his regular visits of the toilet and reports it.


Cliff Robertson


Robert P. Davis (novel), Robert P. Davis (screenplay)


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Cliff Robertson ... Mike Hagan
Diane Baker ... Pat Simpson
Frank Converse ... Jim Cochran
Milo O'Shea ... Doctor O'Brian
Dana Andrews ... Randolph Evers
Gordon MacRae ... Joe Barnes
Edward Binns ... Larry Zanoff
Jennifer Houlton Jennifer Houlton ... Cricket
Kitty Sullivan Kitty Sullivan ... Nancy
Leigh Cort Leigh Cort ... Jean Hagan
Bob Willis Bob Willis ... Ken Howland
Hope Pomerance Hope Pomerance ... Sandy Campbell
Ted Janus Ted Janus ... 1st Mechanic
Paul Stewart Paul Stewart ... 2nd Mechanic
Bob Kozloski Bob Kozloski ... 1st Engineer


Our Pilot, Mike Hagan is a great pilot, careful, thoughtful and uses his knowledge of flying to see trouble and avoid it. But his biggest trouble is he is an alcoholic. Unlike the movie "Flight", Mike realizes his problem and is determined to "save himself". But you can't hide for ever and he seeks help from a fellow pilot. The other pilot's program works, but once an alcoholic, always one except he doesn't drink. Everything comes to a head, (no pun intended) for Mike as he now must face the reality of his job, The Pilot! Written by Bob Howard

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Your life is in his hands...and you don't know a damn thing about him! See more »


Action | Drama


PG | See all certifications »






Release Date:

July 1981 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Danger in the Skies See more »

Filming Locations:

Palm Beach, Florida, USA

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


This is the last film project for Gordon MacRae. See more »

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User Reviews

An airlines chief of flight operations learns that one of his favorite pilots is flying drunk and he doesn't want to believe it, but he must deal with it.
12 January 2015 | by Warren DickmanSee all my reviews

Gordon MacRae who'll be remembered by most for his fluffy roles in musical comedies, always wanted to try his hand at drama and finally got the opportunity with the role of Captain Joe Barnes, the chief of flight operations for Northern American Airlines, who finds out that one of his pilots is an alcoholic and he doesn't want to believe it. They are good friends who share a love for old-fashioned seat-of-the-pants flying, both having been crop dusting pilots in the good old days. It's a problem that can't be swept under the rug, however, and Dana Andrews, as the airline president, must deal with it. Cliff Robertson stars as that pilot who gets away with flying under the influence until he get caught and is forced to face up to his problem. I covered the making of this movie in the April/May, 1979 issue of "On The Set Magazine." Now having seen the final cut, I'm of the opinion that some of its best clips wound up on the cutting room floor. It actually turned out better than anyone ever expected, however, considering its plethora of early problems. The screenplay was co-written between Cliff Robertson and Robert P. Davis who authored the novel on which it was based. Davis started out as the director and found it wasn't as easy as he'd thought it would be. Robertson jumped in to bail him out and save what was left of the project. "The Pilot" was hailed as the return to the silver screen for an old musical star named Gordon MacRae, whose first words to me were, "I'm one helluva good actor, Warren." I guess he did Okay, all things considered. I found it interesting that many of the stars I interviewed over the several weeks of hopping from airport to airport openly discussed their own bout with alcoholism. Robertson, the main star, also directed. Tony Rogers replaced Frank Converse as the co-pilot about halfway into the filming. Rogers is probably best remembered as Sir Dinadan in "Camelot." When the movie wrapped no one seemed very confident that it would make it to the big screen. One of its most exciting scenes was the aborted take-off, which was also one of the toughest to set up due to the logistics involved. While apologizing to us for all the delays Robertson told us at his press conference, "Now you can sit down and write that the engine erupts in a ball of flames, followed by billowing black smoke, followed by people screaming, followed by people jumping out of an airplane and that may take you a couple of hours to write and maybe another thirty minutes to type up, but when you try to execute all that it involves many, many, people and many, many man-hours." We of the press all appreciated that explanation. I'm sure that all who knew and worked with Cliff Robertson will remember him as a fine actor and, perhaps, even a finer gentleman.

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