Final Descent and The Glass Cockpit: movie and book

ATC Screen showing IA19 and N54V

The book The Glass Cockpit was written by Robert P. Davis and first published in 1991. I first read The Glass Cockpit in 1995 when it was published as a condensed book by Reader’s Digest, here in Australia. The condensed version featured a few great illustrations by artist John Beswick. The Glass Cockpit would later appear as the feature film, Final Descent with the late Robert Urich, Annette O’Toole and John DeLancie. While I have not seen the film (nor own the actual book) I have read the condensed version a couple of times. Here is the synopsis.

Trent Aircraft Ltd., in conjunction with Saab and Rolls-Royce built the Trent 270, the largest twin-engine aircraft in the world. The Trent 270 is 232 feet long, is slightly larger than a Boeing 747 and can carry over five hundred passengers. Five years after FAA certification (and three unfortunate crashes), an Intra-Continental Trent 270 is being prepared for IA flight 19, Tulsa to Chicago. Under the command of Captain Glen “Lucky” Doyle, his co-pilot and ex-girlfriend Connie Esposito and check pilot André Bouchard, the Trent 270 lines up at the end of the runway.

Meanwhile, 49-year old Douglas Halsey is preparing to fly his six-seat Rockwell Turbo Commander out of Tulsa. IA flight 19 — “Whisky Charlie” — is cleared to depart. Doug Halsey’s plane, November Five Four Victor (N54V) mistakenly takes-off from a disused runway, into the path of the oncoming Trent 270. Five Four Victor slams into the tail of “Whiskey Charlie”, badly damaging the horizontal stabilizer, the tail and the rudder. The Rockwell is destroyed instantly, killing the only occupant, Doug Halsey. Meanwhile, “Whiskey Charlie” climbs through 2,000 feet with a nose-up attitude of twelve degrees. The rudders and elevators are utterly useless, there seems to be no way to adjust the aircraft’s pitch…

There are a few differences I know of between the film and the book:

  • Glen “Lucky” Doyle, Connie Esposito and André Bouchard are renamed Glen “Lucky” Singer, Connie Phipps and George Bouchard in the film.
  • In the film, Intra-Continental Airlines is renamed Quest Airlines.
  • Trent Aircraft Ltd. builds the Trent 270 in the book, while Gallant Aviation builds the Gallant 270 in the film.
  • The registration of Doug Halsey’s aircraft is N54V in the book and N9748C in the film.
  • IA flight 19 is Tulsa to Chicago, while Quest 19 is Seattle to Dallas/Fort Worth.
  • John Beswick’s illustrations in the book depict the Trent 270 to be similar in size and shape to a Lockheed L-1011 Tristar but without the No. 2 (tail-mounted) engine.

➡ Back to the movie review of Final Descent.

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