‘On A Wing And A Prayer’ Ending, Explained: Is It Based On A True Story?


“On a Wing and a Prayer,” tells us an incredible story about a family who got stuck in a precarious situation and realized that in order to save their lives, they would have to achieve the impossible. Sean McNamara and Brian Egeston, the director and writer, respectively, try to weave a narrative around the notion of faith and how it becomes very hard to keep believing in the higher power when everything seems so pointless and unjustified. There are times when the film brings you to the edge of your seat, but these moments are scarce, and the film mostly remains a pretty bland affair. The subplots, at times, do not add anything to the narrative, and you don’t understand why they were there in the first place. The performances are steady, but the characters are not fleshed out properly, and they seem to lack a strong motive and depth. “On a Wing and a Prayer” never reaches the crescendo it would have wanted to, even though it makes use of all the tropes that could have been available on a limited budget.

Spoilers Ahead

‘On A Wing And A Prayer’ Plot Summary: What Is The Film About?

Doug White had come back after participating in a barbecue “cookoff” competition with his brother, and he had an extremely good time with his family members. Doug was shocked when he got the news of his brother’s demise because he had just met him, and Jeffrey had been doing great. Jeffrey had suffered a heart attack, and Doug had started questioning everything he believed in. He had first lost his father, and now his brother, and he had started feeling that God had abandoned him. Terri, Doug’s wife, kept on telling him that God would always be there for him, but her words didn’t have any effect on Doug. Doug, Terri, and their two daughters, Bailey and Maggie, were flying back home from Marco Island Executive Airport in Naples, and they had decided to take a private flight. Joe, the pilot of the plane, knew Doug from before, and Terri, just to cheer up her husband, asked Joe to do something to elevate his mood. Joe called Doug to come and sit next to him and be his co-pilot. Doug had driven a Cessna once, but it was probably the worst experience of his life. Jeff had told him sarcastically that he should find another hobby if he didn’t want anybody to get killed due to his driving skills.

A few minutes after the flight took off, Joe probably had a seizure and died on the spot. Doug was horrified to see that, and for a moment, his brain got fuzzy, and he froze in his position. Terri and the kids started panicking when they saw that the pilot had died, and they pulled his body out of his chair. Terri sat next to Doug, and with negligible flying experience under their belts, both of them knew that they had to find a way to make a successful landing.

Were Doug And Terri Able To Land The Plane In The End?

Doug switched on the radio communication so that he could get some sort of assistance from the air traffic control towers. Miami Centre was the first to hear about what had happened, and Ellis Ross, the supervisor, instantly realized the kind of critical situation they had on their hands. Ellis immediately went to his colleague, Lisa Grimm, whom he thought to be the best fit for communicating with Doug. Lisa was probably the only person with some pilot experience, and Ellis wanted her to use her expertise and help Doug as much as she could. At that point, Lisa, Ellis, and all the others didn’t believe that the odds favored them. They were trying their best to guide Doug, but they knew from the very beginning that it was a lost cause. They handed Doug over to the Fort Myers traffic control tower, and that’s when Doug came in contact with Brian Nortan and Dan Favio.

Dan knew the only way they could stand a chance of safely landing the plane was when Doug was guided by someone who had actually piloted the plane he was in. Dan called his friend Kari, as he knew about his exceptional flying skills, and asked him to help him out. Kari’s girlfriend Ashley told him that he could probably be Doug’s simulator and talk him through the instructions, but he was skeptical about the plan, and he didn’t know how well it would work. Dan risked his job by calling Kari, as it was against the law to use a mobile phone inside the control tower, but he knew that they couldn’t afford to go buy the book when there were lives at stake. Ralph, the supervisor of the Fort Myers tower, also realized that they didn’t have any option other than to loop in Kari, though he knew that they would have to answer to the authorities for breaking federal laws.

Doug tried landing once but was unsuccessful, as there were unprecedented crosswinds that swayed him off his course. He was hovering around the runway, and to make matters worse, there was a storm coming his way. Kari had lost his family, who had been stuck in a similar situation as Doug’s, and he still bore the guilt of not being able to help their cause. Kari assured Dough that he was going to land the plane even if the odds didn’t seem in his favor. At that moment in the film, Doug leaves everything to the almighty. He closed his eyes, kept hearing Kari’s voice, and did as he was told without thinking about what was going to happen the very next moment. Doug was able to land the plane successfully. Even he couldn’t believe what he had been able to achieve. The family was in tears, and the near-death experience made them realize how unpredictable life was and how necessary it was to savor each and every moment, as you never knew what the future had in store for you.

The True Story Behind Sean McNamara’s Film

“On a Wing and a Prayer” is based on a true story, though how much creative liberty has been taken by the directors cannot be ascertained because a detailed account of what exactly happened on that fateful day is not available. Doug’s character is a testament to the fact that the battle isn’t over unless and until we decide to surrender. Doug was petrified by the mere idea of flying an airplane, but still, when the lives of his daughters and his wife were at stake, he knew that he couldn’t let his fears take over him. Keeping your calm and composure in a situation like this is especially hard when you know that you cannot depend on anybody and the reins are in your hands.

We cannot imagine how Doug, in real life, would have calmed his nerves in such a panic-stricken situation. We cannot imagine how he would have felt when he found out the pilot had died. To recover from that shock and then contact the traffic control room and decipher how the complex system functioned was an achievement in itself. The controllers kept telling Doug that he would land successfully, and their encouragement had a huge role to play in the scheme of things. It is shown that Doug’s faith got reinstated when he was able to make a successful landing, though we don’t know if the real-life person was a man of faith or if it was something that Sean McNamara added to the character of his own accord.

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Sushrut Gopesh
Sushrut Gopesh
I came to Mumbai to bring characters to life. I like to dwell in the cinematic world and ponder over philosophical thoughts. I believe in the kind of cinema that not necessarily makes you laugh or cry but moves something inside you.

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