The Movie that Inspired the Book that Inspired the Movie that Inspired Airplane!

I wrote about how the script of Airplane! is literally the script of another movie, Zero Hour!, with a little bit added to it.  Many of the parts that seem like they have to be added later as a joke actually were in the film as serious dialog (Our survival hinges on one thing – finding someone who not only can fly this plane, but didn’t have fish for dinner.).

Here’s an awesome mash-up of the two, line for line.

But as I was reading up on my classic Canadian TV movies (as one does), I came across this plot.

While on a flight from Toronto, Ontario, to Vancouver, British Columbia, the pilots at the controls of a Canadair North Star, a large commercial airliner, fall victim to food poisoning. Approximately half of the passengers have also been incapacitated by eating the same fish served to the pilots. After the stewardess (Corinne Conley) asks for help from the passengers, George Spencer (James Doohan), an ex-Second World War Spitfire fighter pilot, is forced to take over. His wife (Kate Reid) is able to help him at the controls, but he is worried about his sick son. A storm over Vancouver makes matters worse, with George not only having to overcome harrowing wartime flashbacks, but also struggling with the controls of an unfamiliar aircraft, in order to bring the airliner down safely.

This is from a 1956 television movie, Flight into Danger, definitely pre-dating Zero Hour!  

Wait.  My whole life up until this point was a lie.

But then the rabbit hole got deeper.  First, yes, this is the same Star Trek James Doohan SO HOW DID I NOW KNOW THIS SOONER, but this isn’t the final link to Airplane!

It turns out this movie inspired a book too.


The book Runway Zero-Eight was written by Arthur Hailey, described on Amazon only as, “An in-flight medical emergency, caused by food poisoning.

It came out a little while after Zero Hour! and also inspired a lot of the dialog and action in Airplane!

BUT wait, there’s more.

After writing Runway Zero-Eight, Arthur Hailey was inspired to write another aviation related book–Airport.

Which was the source of the movie Airport–which had a huge influence on the movie Airplane!.

Is your head spinning yet?

The family tree ends up looking like this:



Edit: Tiff just sent me this awesome, longer version of a Zero Hour! / Airplane! mash up.

About Jeanne Marie Hoffman

Former bartender, still a geek. One equal part each cookies, liberty, football, music, travel, libations. Stir vigorously. +Jeanne Marie Hoffman Jeanne on Twitter

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  1. Airplane! is one of the best things ever created. This post makes my day thanks for all the info!!

    • Jeanne Marie Hoffman

      No problem! I think there should be a double-header viewing of the films for frequent flyer enthusiasts sometime!

  2. Don’t forget “The High and the Mighty.”

  3. Absolutely brilliant! Can’take watch Zero Hour now without laughing at the comparable parts.

  4. Larry Seidenberg-Jones

    I always knew that Runway Zero Eight was the basis for Airplane! But I did not know of the existence of Zero Hour. Now I will have to go as see Zero Hour and Flight Into Danger. Thanks for this amazing link!!!

  5. By any chance is this movie available anywhere? The Trek and Airplane! fan in me really wants to see it.

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