Flight of the Phoenix

Plot hole: This film is set in 2004. The thought that no search and rescue operations would be put in place after an aircraft disappeared from radar during a routine flight is absurd. The Chinese are paranoid about intrusion on their territory and the downed aircraft would have been located by a simple satellite search within hours of it crashing. Chinese military satellites crisscross the Gobi and they are equipped with optical cameras, microwave and infrared detectors and radar, so spotting a metal aircraft on the ground would be simple even if it was hundreds of kilometres off course. The crew would have been visited by Chinese military helicopters (and probably arrested!) as soon as the storm had died down.


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Suggested correction: The Chinese government, for whatever reason, may have denied there was any crash at all if it suited their purposes, and the oil company that owned the plane would have little recourse. The Chinese have done this before. For the purpose of the plot, the survivors decided that they had to save themselves rather than wait for rescue and that was completely plausible.

Suggested correction: It's now 2021, and we still can't find Malaysian Airlines MH370. So this suggestion of planes always being found is laughable.


MH370 crashed into the ocean, and in fact some wreckage has been found. The Chinese military does not have the south Indian Ocean under satellite surveillance 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, unlike the Gobi desert where a crashed plane would be spotted within hours of it going missing.

Character mistake: It's all very heroic and manly but the effort put into dragging the Phoenix into its takeoff position once the engine is started is totally wasted. Townes and A.J. are both experienced pilots and Elliott is supposedly a genius aeronautical engineer - they must surely be aware that the engine power required to taxi an aircraft is trivial compared to that required to lift it into the air. Even taking into account the drag of the skids and wheels, if that engine cannot propel the aircraft at a few kilometers an hour on the ground it cannot propel it to take off speed, nor keep it up once airborne. They are not there to steer the aircraft - they are taking the strain of the whole weight of the air-frame, dragging it into place, and the energy input of eight exhausted, underfed people would add nothing to the contribution of a 2500 bhp aircraft engine in moving the Phoenix. They are not trying conserve fuel - they had enough fuel for an extended flight with both engines at full throttle, so they have easily enough to run one engine throttled back to reduce stress on the air-frame, which they say they are going to do.

Factual error: After calculating the amount of water they have available Townes and A.J. announce they will be living on "a pint of water per person per day". One problem - they'll be dead within three days, if they manage to last that long. A GALLON - eight pints - a day is the absolute minimum in conditions of dry, extreme heat such as they are experiencing, and that is for a resting male. Take their strenuous exercise into account and you can push that up to two gallons a day. One pint a day? Forget it.

Factual error: Townes taxis the C119 far too close to the buildings next to the oil platform. The nose of the plane is almost touching the wall. The only anchoring point on a C119 for a taxiing tractor is on the nose wheel, and he hasn't left enough space for the tractor to link up and turn the aircraft without the wing (and engine) hitting the building. There are no anchoring points on a C119 that allow it to be towed backwards, even if they could steer it that way.

Factual error: Interior shots of the cargo bay of the C-119 seem way too small. The real cargo bay is about 50 feet long and seats 62 troops, or 35 stretchers. In the movie it's almost full up with 12 passengers plus about 10 feet of cargo.

Continuity mistake: When everyone is getting ready to leave the oil drilling base, Dennis Quaid is standing at the rear hatchway of the plane wearing his leather jacket, the camera view changes to a view of behind him, and he's not wearing it, he's in a yellow shirt, when the view goes back to the front, he has the jacket on again. (00:07:45)

Continuity mistake: When the pilot is trying to make a crash landing during the sandstorm the landing gear wheels are up in one angle and down in another angle.


Continuity mistake: What happened to all the camels and horses when they have a shoot-out with the nomads? We only see one nomad charging away on a horse, but there were at least 2 camels and 2 horses at the nomad's camp. The camels in particular would have been very useful when stranded in the desert, and then the survivors wouldn't have had to continue to rebuild the plane.

Continuity mistake: When the C-119 is crashing it loses its rear ramp and the wind howls through the cabin. A moment later when it has crashed it is all quiet inside, despite a storm of supposedly 70 mph winds being able to blow into this gap. Next scene, the aircraft is totally buried in sand but none has entered through the wide open ramp. Next scene after that (and all subsequent ones showing the rear of the aircraft), we are again shown that the ramp is missing.

Continuity mistake: Just as the Phoenix starts to move for take-off, there is a shot showing high dunes in the plane's path. However, in the shot as they are approaching the canyon the terrain in front of the plane is relatively flat (except for the canyon), no dunes in sight; they did not pass them.

Continuity mistake: When the Phoenix just starts to take off at the end of the movie, one of the first shots shows the ground covered in large rocks. The very next shot shows the plane moving along a smooth, pristine dirt runway.

Continuity mistake: Moments before the C-119 crashes, we see a towering sandstorm. After it crashes, Frank Towns looks out a port and says the wind is blowing 70 mph and would cut you to shreds. But during the crash several exterior shots show clear air and no sign of a storm.

Factual error: In the scene where the plane is flying through the sandstorm there isn't any sand flying into the plane, even though during a sandstorm the sand can and will get into any crack it can find.


Visible crew/equipment: The scene following the one where Elliot was inspecting the aircraft's vertical rudder, shows a long view of the aircraft in the desert, where a shadow of a helicopter and the helicopter itself appears in the background.

Continuity mistake: When Captain Towns has gone looking for Liddel (he ends up at the arch where the plane first hit), he shouts "Liddel.". There is a shot of Liddel looking to the right. In the background over his left shoulder you can see two of the crosses (makeshift gravemarkers) that are back where the plane and crew are, not where they are at. The editing is a little choppy too.

Factual error: Both the C-82 from the original and the C-119 from the remake used electric starters. Coffman shotgun starters were never used on these airplanes.

Continuity mistake: When Frank is loading cartridges, during the final takeoff, he uses five cartridges. He uses two right away. Someone in the background notes that there are only two left. He uses one to blow the engine and one to start it. Where did the last cartridge go? There were five to start with and four were used.

Sammi: I thought you weren't religious, Rady?
Rady: Spirituality is not religion. Religion divides people. Belief in something unites them.

More quotes from Flight of the Phoenix

Question: What are cowl flaps? What is their purpose?

Answer: Cowl flaps are used to adjust to volume of air that passes over the cooling fins of an aircraft piston engine. Under takeoff and landing these flaps are open to allow maximum airflow and under normal flight they are closed to maintain normal engine temperature.


More questions & answers from Flight of the Phoenix

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