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In its article about 1956 film Julie, starring Doris Day, Wikipedia claims that it is “potentially the first film to feature the subplot of a stewardess piloting a plane to safety, later used in Airport 1975 (1975) and parodied in Airplane! (1980)”.

Someone on a personal webpage also mentions this possible first, but adds:

It may well be that Doris Day truly does hold pride of place as cinema’s first civilian to fly and land a plane – I’d dearly love to think so, anyway – but I have it in my head that there is a 30s drama in which a gangster being escorted on a plane by a policeman breaks free and shoots the pilot, and the stewardess – definitely a stewardess – has to land the plane. Now, I can find no firm evidence of such a film’s existence, let alone a title – and the obvious search terms bring up endless extraneous matter, as you might imagine – yet this seems too concrete an outline for me just to have imagined it. If anyone out there has any definite information one way or the other, please let me know.

Does anyone know about this 30s drama, if it exists? Or is there a definite confirmation that Julie is the first film with a stewardess landing a plane? What about non-stewardesses, non-pilots landing planes?

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  • 2
    Why the downvote? Can I somehow make the question better?
    – DaG
    Sep 18 '18 at 14:51
  • 2
    I rejected the suggested edit to the title (stewardess > flight attendant) since the question and the quotations are specifically about stewardesses. (I don't know about films where a male flight attendant lands a plane: that could be a subject for another question.)
    – DaG
    Sep 9 '19 at 22:46
  • I'm curious... now that ID questions are not on-topic, wouldn't this be off-topic and closed as soon as the bounty expires?
    – CGCampbell
    Mar 1 at 14:15
  • @CGCampbell: I'll submit to the administrators' judgement, of course, but if the ID part of this question is considered off topic, I'll throw it away and keep the part about the “stewardess landing a plane in an emergency” trope.
    – DaG
    Mar 1 at 15:35
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You're probably thinking of Fugitive in the Sky, in which Jean Muir flies a Ford Trimotor for a few minutes while the pilot recovers consciousness after the hijacker knocks him out. The copilot was unconscious from drinking the sedated coffee she had brought for the hijacker. She does not actually land the plane, though.

If you insist on the stewardess actually landing the plane, then it's Without Orders (1936), in which Sally Eilers flies a Boeing 247 through a mountain pass in a snowstorm and lands it on a snow-covered field. The bad-guy pilot was sure they'd crash and that he'd be blamed for it, so he parachuted out (the chute didn't open). The co-pilot had frozen up in fear, leaving our intrepid stewardess and the radio voice of her boyfriend, Robert Armstrong, talking her through it.

After that, we have Doris Day in "Julie", Karen Black in "Airport '75", Julie Hagerty in "Airplane!", Kate Jackson in "Panic in the Skies!", Lauren Holly in "Turbulence", Halle Berry in "Executive Decision", and Julianna Margulies in "Snakes on a Plane". Doris landed her DC-4 on the same runway at San Francisco that John Wayne and Robert Stack used to land their own DC-4 in "The High and the Mighty".

I'd love to know of any others.

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  • Great, thanks! I can only add, with a question mark, Flying Hostess. As for a stewardess landing the plane in it, I only have the word of an Italian page about the film: cinematografo.it/cinedatabase/film/sos-apparecchio-107/2253 (it's the website of an Italian public organisation for cinema). The last sentence says (roughly translated): “...the two pilots are injured and it is the girl who - following the radiotelegraphic instructions transmitted by the field - manages to fly the plane, through the fog, until landing.”
    – DaG
    Apr 16 at 20:05

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