This is the second sequel to Airport (1970) and stars Jack Lemmon as the ageing but very heroic pilot Don Gallagher.
This time, the co-pilot (Robert Foxworth) of a private 747 Jumbo Jet outfitted like a Holiday Inn turns out to be a part of a gang of crooks planning to steal some valuable artwork on board.
The paintings – and the plane – belong to multimillionaire art collector Jimmy Stewart who has invited other millionaires and art collectors to his Palm Beach estate where he will announce the donation of his family’s accumulation of the goodies of the world, to the public.
Brenda Vaccaro is Stewart’s assistant and Lemmon’s mistress. Olivia de Havilland is a sweet elderly lady with lots of art and lots of moolah. Joseph Cotten is another millionaire who dated her in London 40 years ago. Nothing happened then. Will it now?
Lee Grant and Christopher Lee are a quarrelling couple, still in love, who have forgotten how to say “I love you”. Darren McGavin, the plane’s designer, is on board as is Pamela Bellwood, Stewart’s rebellious daughter who has tried to find a life of her own, and who is bringing with her a small son whom grandpa Stewart has never seen.
Tom Sullivan plays a blind pianist (seriously).
The skyjacking attempt is going to plan: Lemmon and the other responsible crew members are knocked over the head and knockout gas is released into the plane causing everybody to pass out immediately. Foxworth guides the plane beyond radar detection to the designated place of assignation, but . . . oh no! . . . the plane crashes into an offshore oil rig and plops into the ocean in the Bermuda Triangle.
Screams and consternation abound as the plane sinks and settles on the ocean bed with the passengers sealed alive inside. Fortuitously, it sinks in only 30 feet of water!
George Kennedy appears in a small role, as the expert who is rushed in to help get the US Navy rescue operation underway, and the second half of the film takes place underwater, ostensibly becoming a documentary on Navy frogmen raising a sunken vessel.
By this time, the Airport theme was thoroughly exhausted, although a further sequel – Airport ’79 – The Concorde – was made in 1979 (natch).
The underwater scenes in Airport ’77 were filmed in a huge water tank at the CBS studios in Hollywood, and on location at Wakulla Springs, south of Tallahassee in Florida, where a plane fuselage was lowered under the water to shoot the scenes where divers attach flotation gear to the plane.
Nicholas St Downs III
Olivia de Havilland
Mrs Jane Stern
M Emmet Walsh
Commander Paul Guay
Lt Tommy Norris