In Airplane!, Rex Kramer told this at some time in the control tower:

We ought to route [the plane] in Lake Michigan, at least we'll avoid killing innocent people.

I had long suspected that this is some kind of a racist joke, but never understood what exactly it meant.

What does that joke mean?

  • 30
    Why would the joke be racist?
    – Kakturus
    Commented Nov 27, 2019 at 14:48
  • @Kakturus, I had thought that the people who would have died in Michigan were not innocent. Still I didn't consider that the lake is so big and no casualties would have happened on ground. Commented Nov 27, 2019 at 23:06
  • 4
    @Kakturus : because in this day and age, any and all jokes are racist.
    – vsz
    Commented Nov 28, 2019 at 7:19
  • 2
    It is one of the Great Lakes. Not the biggest but almost 200 km wide at its widest point. Commented Nov 28, 2019 at 11:21

1 Answer 1


It's not a joke as such.

This is a goddamn waste of time. There's no way he can land this plane! Route 'em into Lake Michigan and at least avoid killing innocent people!

Quite simply Kramer is saying that since the plane can't be landed it will crash and the safest place to do that is into a giant lake rather than into the ground or a built up area, like Chicago, killing anyone underneath.

There's no racist intent here.

The joke, in fact, is that Ted can hear this statement over the mic which freaks him out further.

  • 9
    I'd say there's a second layer to the joke in that Kramer is suggesting the people on the plane aren't innocent.
    – F1Krazy
    Commented Nov 27, 2019 at 9:35
  • 39
    @F1Krazy That seems like a bit of a stretch. In this context, "innocent" is being used in the same context as "innocent bystander", which is more akin to "uninvolved" than "without guilt".
    – T.J.L.
    Commented Nov 27, 2019 at 14:29
  • 1
    ... although there is the whole thing about Ted being ostensibly guilty over the Macho Grande fiasco, which could give comment #1 legs. :)
    – NikLP
    Commented Nov 27, 2019 at 15:12
  • 14
    @T.J.L. Isn't there a point/counterpoint bit where the TV celeb implies they are not innocent - "they bought their tickets, they knew what they were getting into. I say, let em crash!" Commented Nov 27, 2019 at 19:08
  • 1
    @F1Krazy, that was my reasoning. Commented Nov 27, 2019 at 23:09

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