Falling from the Sky is a Canadian TV movie based on a 1983 real-life event. It’s 1982 and Canada’s recent conversion to the metric system leads to a serious miscalculation in fueling a brandnew Boeing 767; to make it worse, the plane’s gauge is out of order. After running out of fuel mid-flight, the pilot manages to land the plane on a disaffected airstrip, converted into a racing drag strip. In addition to those essentially true facts, we follow the pilot and the passengers before and during the flight, generally acting brave, coward or both.
Callum plays "the pumper", drives a big truck and wears a green hat. He also refuels the plane at the start of the movie and shows up a couple times during the first 15 minutes.
The IMDB page: Falling from the Sky: Flight 174 (1995) aka Freefall: Flight 174 (cable-TV play)
Jorge Montesi directed the movie, writing credits go to William Hoffer (author of Midnight Express) and Marilyn Hoffer for the book Freefall, and to Lionel Chetwynd for the teleplay. Montesi directed a bunch of episodes for TV series, among which Andromeda, Cold Squad, Forever Knight, The Outer Limits, Highlander and Mutant X, including Callum’s Ex Marks the Spot.
The movie wins at C6D bingo with the cast (nearly one actor out of two played along Callum at some time or the other):
Scott Hyland as co-pilot Maurice Quintal played General Bowman in Due South episode Perfect Strangers
Kevin McNulty as Larry Roberts played Hank in Tin Man, Assistant Director Menzes in Strange World episode Lullaby and Henry in Tricks
Gwynyth Walsh as Pearl Dion was also in Tin Man as Emily
Garry Davey as Howard was also in Strange World episode Lullaby as Randy Matson
Nicholas Turturro as Al Williams played Stick in Excess Baggage
Winston Rekert as Rick Dion played a priest in Battlestar Galactica
Philip Granger as Phil Lyons played Fred in Flower and Garnet
Phil Hayes as Bob Rand played Alan Wells in Highlander episode The Innocent
Tom Butler as Pilot Dave played Quincy Simon in Viper episode Wheelman
Fulvio Cecere as simulator co-pilot played Sharp Shooter in Excess Baggage and Partner in Unforgettable
Paul Jarrett as Mechanic played Russian Sailor 2 in Buried on Sunday
Roman Podhora as Gardener played Prison Guard in Whale Music
Wendy Van Riesen as Mary Quintal played Jean Williams in Da Vinci's Inquest episodes Reality and Fantasy
P. Lynn Johnson as Nurse played Jan Martin The L Word episode Lifesize and Maggie in The Last Stop
Akiko Morison as Gloria played Janet in Masterminds
Not forgetting, playing Norma Sax, Molly Parker!
Cast / Characters
With the list above, the first four will be enough…
Capt. Bob Pearson
IMDB rating: 5.6/10 out of 267 votes
Keywords: Boeing 767, Disaster, Run Out Of Gas, Glider, Aviation, Metric System Usage, Based On True Story, Based On Book
20 comments in total
Great cockpit scenes; too much soap
This was a very watchable film with lots of authentic cockpit time. I've spent lots of hours in jet cockpits and this was more realistic than most. Some criticisms : 1) The Captain (William Devane) and his first officer seemed a little weak on aircraft systems. Sure, this was a new Boeing 767, but most crewmembers I knew had a deep knowledge of every system on the plane, including fuel. There is no flight engineer... the pilots have to know it! 2) This LARGE abandoned airfield just outside Winnipeg was not on ANY chart and NO ONE knew where it was?? I found this hard to believe. 3) The ending didn't cover anything about culpability in this incident. What happened to the numbskulls who mis-fueled the plane in the first scenes? Were they fired or sued? None of them had a clue! And isn't it the Captain's responsibility for taking off with sufficient fuel? I felt they glossed over all the "legal" stuff. Devane was convincing... lots of great one-liners. Great flick.
Another one is quoted in the reviews below, because of its completeness on the true facts and the movie. You can find all the other comments here.
Callum Quotient: 2%?
from the sadly defunct CallumKeithRennie.net site
- Mech2: We’ve got about 11,000 of pounds to fill
Mech1: pounds or liters?
Mech2: Pounds. No, no, hold on – maybe that’s kilograms
Pumper: How much more? I’ve got several thousands gallons left.
Mech1: Gallons? Don’t give me gallons, okay? You’ve got the pride of the fleet, the first 767 in service, and we are now metric, speak to me in kilos!
Pumper: Sorry, boss. I really don’t know that stuff yet. I’ve got my work cut out converting gallons into pounds.
Mech2: Yeah, like we don’t? You just stand by, okay? They could at least convert the whole fleet instead of just these new planes.
- Mech2: How many kilos in a pound?
Mech1: Uh. 2,2 - or so it says here.
Mech2: Okay, how many quarts in a kilogram?
Pumper: I don’t know. I told you to check the on-board gauge.
Mech1: It’s gone on hold.
Pumper: Well, how the hell will the pilot know how much fuel he got?
Mech2: Computers. State-of-the-art computers.
Mech1: I hate computers. Gotta be a techie to run them.
Mech2: Well, we both better check to a seminary. Come on, let’s try the cockpit.
- Pearl Dion: What can go wrong when the airline's top mechanic is sitting in the seat right next to us?
- Rick Dion: You don't want the oxygen masks popping out. It might panic the passengers.
Capt. Bob Pearson: "Might panic"? Heh. I'm surprised they're not back there knitting their own parachutes right now
You’ll find more in the IMDB page (trivia and goofs), the reviews and the links - here are some:
- Bob Pearson, the real-life pilot, has a cameo at the beginning as an instructor.
- The movie was screened in 2003 at the Gimli Film Festival to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the "Gimli Glider".
- After the real Flight 143 had landed safely, a group of Air Canada mechanics were dispatched to drive down and begin repair. They ran out of fuel en-route, finding themselves stranded somewhere in the backwoods of Manitoba.
- The real incident was covered in Mayday (TV series), season 5 episode 6 "Gimli Glider (Deadly Glide) (Miracle Flight)"
- See the pictures above…
- The mechanics doing their calculations
- The landing
Do I want to show this to my parents / friends / co-workers?
Might prove useful if you’ve lost your sleeping pills
You never get there’s a drama playing
Well you do, because it’s alluded to
Some broken eggs
What do you expect from a plane crash story?
Did they really have to show all those corpses?
It’s also known as the Canadian Hot Shots
Surprising humor for such a dramatic event
Unrelenting documentary mode
It’s also known as Ass Parade Mile High Club
Molly, uh, Norma Sax, sure knows how to entertain the passengers and crew
The usual hot farewell scene between the pilot and his wife
Does kissing count?
None that we know of
The stewardess does mention the pilot’s attitude to her colleague
Those mechanics are mean guys when they’re off work
The flashbacks to Molly’s, uh Norma’s past are suspicious and hard to watch
An angel on earth, he saves the day
He does his best to help the mechanics
He’s doing his job
He obviously has a hidden agenda
He’s a serial de-pumper!
How many people does he kill?
He doesn’t even crash his truck
He did drive over a rabbit
The two mechanics, but they asked for it!
The MPs who voted the introduction of the metric system
How many passengers in a 767?
Probably not as dumb as he pretends to be
He’s not the brightest bulb
He’s got some crazy thoughts under this hat
He likes to play with his flammable load
Pyromaniac arsonist pumper
Spreads his legs very nicely
More evidence is needed
Sorry, pumpers don’t do it for me
Just look to the name they’ve given him
He’s sure coming on to these mechanics
Not one scene with a woman – that must mean something
More evidence is needed, clearly
He’s got it hard for Molly, uh, Norma Sax
Does he die?
You really want to know? Are you sure? Really sure? Well, then. (highlight to read)
::Definitely no. Noone dies in fact.::
A true-story movie that could have been WAY better, 31 July 2006 by Steve P from Canada
*** This comment may contain spoilers ***
Having read plenty about the true incident that inspired this movie, I'll try to help clear up some of the misconceptions voiced by other contributors before going on with my own review.
The real incident, which happened in 1983, involved an Air Canada 767, which had only been in the fleet for a few 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 computer that operated the fuel gauges failed (originally discovered in Edmonton a few 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 new computer could be obtained. Since the 767 was such a new aircraft, this was going to take a while. However, because there was now no backup system, the Edmonton mechanic noted in the logs that a fuel drip was required to verify the computer information as a backup. He further taped off the breaker switch and marked it 'inoperative'. A day later, in Montreal, another 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 entire fuel gauge system to fail. In the rush of events 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 crew 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 needed to reach Edmonton.
In real life, Air Canada put the blame squarely on the pilots for the foul-up. However, a later 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 movie on TV a few weeks ago and noticed many similarities to the real-life incident. However, I found a lot of details wanting and a lot of the dramatic tension to be really fake. The internal monologues reminded me of a bad soap opera (sorry folks, but I find pretty much all soaps to be painful experiences). I echo other contributors' question regarding the knowledge of the Gimli airport - the location 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 real incident.
I found the last 20 minutes of the movie 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 hold the plane in a side-slip (which, by the way, he held for far less time in the real 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 show people peacefully seated in a level 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 few 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 whole scene left me thinking that the director was looking for just one more way to add some drama before the closing credits, but it was really very poorly done.
I personally think this movie should be re-done. It's a good story, the more so that it is completely true. Having competent writers and a good director would really help the story along - even the best actor can only do so much with a bad script. It should create the sort of suspense that "Apollo 13" did - even though you know how the story turns out, you should be left wondering as you watch the movie. Could we try again, please?
falling from the sky: flight 174 by Sergio Ortega (airodyssey.net)
you thought IT could never happen... well, IT DID!
Fuel starvation... You must think right now that this is almost impossible on a passenger aircraft, at least in the industrialized countries. But what if I told you that this happened on a state-of-the-art Boeing 767 operated by a Canadian airline in 1983? This is a real-life event that is depicted in Falling from the Sky: Flight 174, also known as Freefall: Flight 174. In English, this made-for-TV movie was aired for the first time on ABC in 1995. It is based on the novel Freefall written by William and Marilyn Mona Hoffer.
It's July 23, 1983. On this sunny day, the ground staff at Montreal Dorval Airport (now Pierre-Elliott Trudeau International) is admiring the pride of Canada World Airways: the brand-new Boeing 767, "just out of the box", as said by one of the ground staff members. In the meantime, Captain Bob Pearson (William Devane) is dressing for his morning routine, CWA flight 174 from Montreal to Edmonton, as he sips his coffee with his wife Beth (Marriette Hartley). Beth doesn't look OK this morning, as she is having some premonition. For the first time, she actually looks worried that her husband is leaving for a flight. Maybe it's because he is going to Edmonton pick up his in-laws.
Somewhere else, First Officer Maurice Quintal (Scott Hylands) is called on emergency to replace the First Officer on the Boeing 767. After brief discussion, he finally accepts, in despite of his wife Marie (Wendy Van Riesen) being very sick, at home, probably suffering from cancer or a serious illness.
Back at Dorval Airport, Beth drops off her husband. And many of the passengers of Flight 174 are already entering the airport. We see two friends of opposite gender, obviously roommates, a businessman always recording on his microcassette recorder, an angry high school coach, another businessman who is having a small serious conversation with his girlfriend, and one of the Flight Attendants, Lynn Brown (Shelley Hack) who kisses goodbye her husband and her little baby. It's her first trip following maternity leave.
The ground staff has some complications trying to burn fuel into the Boeing 767, as the fuel gauge is inoperative. They have to deal for the first time with metric system, as the B767 is the first plane in the fleet of CWA to use metric system. As they discuss to convert gallons into pounds or liters into kilos, they get mixed up and eventually make a mistake.
Bob Pearson and Maurice Quintal enter the Crew's Lounge and are informed that the Boeing 767 they will fly has an inoperative fuel tank gauge. As they get board the aircraft and watch the ground staff checking oil, they feel everything will be fine. After all, the B767 is nicknamed "Pac Man" and has a state-of-the-art computerized cockpit. The In-Flight Computer will replace the fuel gauge and indicate precisely how much fuel there is left in the tanks.
Because of the fuel tank problem, Flight 174 is "slightly delayed". Finally, after a brief discussion with the Mechanics, the Ground Staff and the two-member cockpit crew, the tank is supposedly filled with 20,345 kgs of fuel and that can bring the B767 all the way to Vancouver.
The Captain finally accepts, confident that Passenger Rick Dion, who is the airline's Top Mechanic, will be able to help the crew with the fuel gauge. Rick Dion (Winston Rekert), his wife Pearl (Gwynyth Walsh) and his son Chris (Joel Palmer) board Flight 174 along with the rest of the passengers. Pearl is slightly aviophobic and for the first time, she doesn't show any signs of scare. In fact, she should.
Flight 174 finally rolls and leaves Dorval Airport on this sunny day. Once the Captain turns off the FASTEN SEAT BELT sign, Rick Dion gets in the cockpit and after brief discussion with Pearson, the fuel gauge problem starts: a series of small beeps start to ring in the flight deck. The lights on the button for the left engine fuel feed turn on. Rick Dion says that the left pump has a small problem and that "either pump, left or right, can feed both engines". After a crossfeed for the both engines, the problem is solved... (Yeah, right.)
A few minutes later, same thing happens but this time the right engine pump has a failure. The crossfeed doesn't work this time. The beeps go on... Tension is climbing. Suddenly a sharp alarm sounds in the cockpit and the plane rapidly falls as a rollercoaster for a split second. All passengers get slightly worried, but Pearl is already scared to death.
Pearson contacts the Winnipeg ATC Center and advises the Senior Flight Attendant, Larry Roberts (Kevin McNulty) to tell the passengers to prepare for an emergency landing at Winnipeg. The problem doesn't seem too serious, however enough to make an emergency landing. Obviously, something's wrong with the fuel pumps. The ground staff at Dorval made a mistake converting the fuel density into weight... and the plane is carrying "20,345 units all right... But that was POUNDS, not KILOS!"... Rick gets back to his seat with his wife and tries to reassure her. "We're fine, Pearl! I swear it.", even though he knows perfectly he's wrong.
The problem turns into a terrifying nightmare as a loud alarm sounds in the cockpit and the B767 switfly moves left, as the left engine flames out. Rick Dion goes immediately to the cockpit to see what's going on. The right engine flames out too and the cabin is heavily shaken. The video screens that replace the instruments on the B767 turn off and Pearson, Quintal and Dion watch, impotently, the general failure.
Will the plane still hold until it reaches Winnipeg? Will it fall down so quicky that it will cause a cabin decompression or maybe disintegrate? Will Flight 174 make it?
The movie is overall very interesting. I have been told that even already started, the movie creates interest by the uncommon situation of fuel starvation. The movie is "fairly" based on the real event. Many details have been left out and the picture doesn't feel "eighties" enough. Also, obvious overacting from the actors and actresses, especially at the end of the movie.
I give this movie 7 out of 10.
Although very good, this movie doesn't offer the satisfaction from a solid based on true story movie.
You can read the rest here.
You can watch the trailer on You Tube (no Callum).
There is a Wikipedia entry on the movie and one on the real incident.
See the Wiki entries and the review above for links on the real event.
This post inspired neu111 (!) to write a more in-depth analysis of Callum's performance.
The movie is available through Amazon for region 1 or region 2.
Watching Falling from the Sky
Callum as The Pumper, convincingly drives a fuel truck (he doesn’t even crash it) and he’s cute while watching the mechanics doing their calculations and getting rebuffed. He’s good at playing dumb – or is it pragmatic? (I bet he wouldn’t have flied on a plane fuelled in these conditions) and stoically takes in the mechanics’ superior attitude, kind of bullying him. And I could have gone on watching him being cute, except that’s where we got cheated because mechanic 2 tells mechanic 1 and Callum to go with him to the cockpit. And one minute later, there are 3 of them in the cockpit. CALLUM HAS BEEN REPLACED?! Wait, there is a last glimpse of pumper!Callum standing on a carrier under the plane with Mechanic 1 checking the fuel (with a FLAMMABLE sign, no less).
In-between, we are introduced to MOLLY! I mean, Norma Sax. With meaningful dialogue
Norma: You got the tickets?
Boyfriend: Yes. Have you turned down the thermostat?
Norma: Yes. Hey, you’ve taken an insurance?
Boyfriend: Yes, why?
Molly is very pretty.
Pumper Callum has taken the blame in some reviews - though he didn’t even have a psychopath acting record at the time - while he’s obviously innocent as a newborn lamb. He doesn’t pretend to know anything about conversions, is just there to do as he’s told. And anyway the official investigation on the real event concluded the pilots and mechanics were at fault (not a word on the pumper \p/).
In conclusion, not a memorable role of Callum’s, one among many 10-minute or less appearances on screen.
Anybody else watched this movie in full?
Well, I did. Once. To check if we’d get another glimpse of Callum, probably. Enough to let you know that Molly’s character doesn’t die, nobody dies in fact. The pilot is a hero, the passengers come out of their trial better beings. The movie is your usual soapy rendering of a real dramatic event, always helpful to watch to remember that all plane crashes don’t end badly …
ETA: added link to picpspam