Airplane! (1980) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • A man afraid to fly must ensure that a plane lands safely after the pilots become sick.

  • Still craving for the love of his life, Ted Striker follows Elaine onto the flight that she is working on as a member of the cabin crew. Elaine doesn't want to be with Ted anymore, but when the crew and passengers fall ill from food poisoning, all eyes are on Ted.

  • This is a spoof of the airport disaster movies. When the crew of an airplane are struck by some form of virus, the fate of the passengers depends on an ex-war pilot who is the only one able to land the plane safely! The passengers represent a selection of interesting wacky characters who seem to take every word for its literal meaning.

  • Ex-Navy pilot Ted Striker has been nervous about flying ever since THAT incident during the war. He's on a flight which would cause anyone concern: he seems to be the only sane person aboard. Of course, everything that could possibly go wrong on this flight will go wrong... what do you expect with a co-pilot who doesn't realize he's a basketball star, and an air traffic controller with a substance abuse problem?

  • Ted Striker just got dumped by his long-time girlfriend Elaine Dickinson, who works as a stewardess at Trans American Airlines. In his wish to get her back, he follows her aboard the plane, although he has had a deep aversion against anything winged since he lost several men in the war. During flight, he tries to contact her again and again, but as the crew and many passengers get seriously ill due to a bad fish meal, he has no chance to get to her. In fact, Ted Striker seems to be the only healthy person aboard that has piloting experience. Now, it is up to him to get the bird down in Chicago safely, before the poisoning starts causing casualties. But Ted Striker's aversion really is a serious psychosis, which breaks open and needs to be cured - right now.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • Ex-fighter pilot Ted Striker (Robert Hays) became traumatized after an incident during the war, leading to his fear of flying. Recovering his courage, Striker attempts to regain the love of his life from the war, Elaine (Julie Hagerty), now a stewardess. In order to win her love, Striker overcomes his fear and buys a ticket on a flight she is serving on, from Los Angeles to Chicago. However, during the flight, Elaine rebuffs his attempts.

    After dinner is served, many of the passengers fall ill, and Dr. Rumack (Leslie Nielsen) quickly realizes that one of the meal options gave the passengers food poisoning. The stewards discover that the pilot crew, including Captain Oveur (Peter Graves) and Roger Murdock (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), have all come down with food poisoning, leaving no one aboard to fly the plane. Elaine is instructed by the Chicago control tower supervisor Steve McCroskey (Lloyd Bridges) to activate the plane's autopilot a large blow-up doll named "Otto" which will get them to Chicago but will not be able to land the plane. Elaine realizes that Striker is their only chance, and he is convinced to fly the plane, though he still feels his trauma will prevent him from safely landing the plane.

    McCroskey, after hearing Striker's name on the radio, sends for Striker's former commander, Rex Kramer (Robert Stack) to help talk him down. As the plane nears Chicago, Striker neglects to check the oil temperature which damages one of the engines while a bad thunderstorm reduces visibility, making the landing even more difficult. Thanks to Kramer's endless stream of advice, Striker is able to overcome his fears and safely land the plane with only minor injuries to some passengers. Striker's courage rekindles Elaine's love for him, and the two share a kiss while Otto takes off in the evacuated plane after inflating a female autopilot doll.

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