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Film / SST: Death Flight

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SST: Death Flight, also known as SST: Disaster in the Sky, Flight of the Maiden and simply Death Flight, is a 1977 made-for-TV airplane Disaster Movie. Meant to capitalize on the success of the disaster movies like the Airport series, it featured an all-TV star ensemble cast and was directed by David Lowell Rich, who went on to direct the fourth and final Airport movie.

The world's first commercial supersonic flight, Maiden I, is about to take off from New York to Paris, filled with a group of contest winners and crew. Unfortunately, Les Phillips, an engineer, fed up with being dissed by the plane's designer, Willy Bassett, sabotages the plane's hydrualic system, causing it to malfunction during flight. And as if that isn't bad enough, Ralph Therman, an epidemioligist from WHO, has the plane transport a highly infectuous Senegal flu, turning the plane into a flying quarantine zone.

In the midst of all this, a whole bunch of subplots crop up. Hank Fairbanks, a passenger working for an aircraft buyer company, has a grudge against the captain, Jim Walsh. Said passenger used to have a relationship with one of the stewardesses. The airline's publicist is having an affair with Angela Garland, "Miss SST". And as if that isn't enough, a former sportscaster, Lyle Kingman, on the plane is discussing a job change with his wife, Nancy, and a woman, Anne Redding, runs into her old boss/lover, Paul Whitley, while travelling with her new lover, Bob Connors.


Critically panned for its painfully standard disaster movie plot and poor production value, the film holds the dubious honor of being one of the first movies ever riffed on Mystery Science Theater 3000, getting the treatment during the show's KTMA season. For the MST3K episode, see here.


  • Bad Boss: Les Phillips, according to Bassett, treats his crew badly and yells at one of them when he questions his orders.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The plane manages to make an emergency landing in Senegal, preventing the disease from being brought into a country not prepared to deal with it. However, not everyone on the plane makes it out alive.
  • Cool Old Guy: Bassett.
  • Commander Contrarian: The airline executive Marshall Cole assumes this role when Phillips tries to convince him that the plane will fail, telling him the virgin voyage is too important a promotional event to be aborted with so little evidence; justified in that he doesn't know that Phillips has sabotaged the plane.
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  • Developing Doomed Characters: A plane full of them, no less.
  • Disaster Movie
  • The Ditz: Miss SST is chatty and a bit naive, thinking the publicist will marry her without hesitation, but friendly to everyone.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Phillips sabotages the plane planning to get the plane to turn around and discredit Basset. It works about as well as expected.
  • Four Lines, All Waiting
  • From Bad to Worse: Things are difficult enough when the plane's hydrualic system are malfunctioning, but the deadly virus onboard really puts the icing on the cake.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Played straight with Miss SST when the publicist isn't willing to start a family with her and wants her to have one; she immediately refuses and seems offended that he even suggested it.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Bob Connors gets increasingly nasty when learning about Anne's past relationship with Paul, to the point of punching Paul in the face.
  • Incurable Cough of Death: A symptom of the Senegal flu. The scene where Bassett does it stands out.
  • Living Legend: Bassett is described as one, within the world of aircraft design anyway.
    "The thing about being a legend is everyone assumes you're dead."
  • Mission Control: Marshall Cole spends much of his time in the movie guiding the pilots through the flight by radio.
  • The Needs of the Many: When the Senegal flu strikes, the passengers vote to take a chance and have the plane fly to Senegal, where the disease has run its course and can be contained, rather than follow the airline's orders to land in London and risk spreading it to the rest of the world.
  • Never My Fault: Phillips refuses to take any responsibility for his sabotage of the plane, instead blaming the pilot for not listening to him when he told him the plane was in trouble or blaming Bassett for not giving him the promotion he thought he deserved.
  • Token Romance: Most of the subplots qualify since they have some romantic component with no impact on the plane's emergency. The triangle drama between Anne, Paul and Bob stands out.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: In the past, Hank lost his pilot license for making an emergency landing, in his words, in "less than ideal weather". While he presents it to Bassett as though the airline overreacted, Jim Walsh, his co-pilot during the flight who reported him, later reminds him that the landing he did was much more reckless than he let on and it was a miracle the plane didn't crash.

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