‘Runway 34’ Ending, Explained: Is It Based On A Real Event? How Did Vikrant Get A Punishment?


Ajay Devgn’s “Runway 34” is a film about a pilot who risks the lives of his passengers by blindly landing on the runway. Captain Vikrant Khanna is a proud man with an arrogant attitude. He had a photographic memory, which was the reason for his overconfidence. Vikrant’s daughter demanded that her father return home on her birthday, and he promised to do so. While he was relaxing in his hotel room, his friend called him and asked him to attend a party. Initially, Vikrant was not interested in it, but later, he decided to join in. Vikrant and his friend partied till early in the morning. He spent the entire day resting, and by evening he had a flight to catch. He met his first officer, Tanya Albuquerque. While she admired him professionally, she too had to deal with his cocky attitude. They were flying from Dubai to Cochin for Skyline Airways.

“Runway 34” is excruciatingly long, and Devgn’s acting makes it worse. The script is written matter-of-factly, and even the news of death is conveyed without emotion. Gone are the days when arrogant men were considered attractive, but the makers of this film are not over the idea. The Captain is introduced as the alpha man through a song when he lights a cigarette. All this and much more make the character of the Captain almost unbearable to watch.

‘Runway 34’ Summary: What Is The Film About?

Captain Khanna was tired after partying last night, so after taking off and setting the flight in auto-pilot mode, he went to sleep. Tanya was a bit surprised by his ways. He at first humiliated her while introducing her to the passengers and then behaved in an unprofessional way. The Captain requested a coffee from a cabin crew member. Though we only got to see it from behind, it seemed that he had added the disprin he had requested to his drink. As he went back to his seat, he discussed with Tanya how there were some days when he loved his job, but at times, he also hated the job. When they were 45 minutes away from Cochin, the weather started acting up.

Meanwhile, Mr. Tripathi, an employee at the air traffic control unit in Cochin, went back to work after recently losing his daughter. He was responsible for communicating weather details to Skyline 777. He cautioned them that in Cochin, the visibility was low due to heavy rainfall. They were asked to divert from Cochin, but the Captain wanted to attempt landing since they were within the Minima. After a few failed attempts, they gave up on landing. The ATC informed them that another flight had safely landed in Trivandrum, and they could do the same. The weather was clear and safe for landing. Tanya did not agree with the plan; she knew that if the weather in Cochin was bad, then it could eventually be the same in Trivandrum. Instead, she felt that Bengaluru would be a safer option since the chances of weather issues would be way lower, and they had enough fuel to make that trip. The Captain did not pay heed to her advice; he asked her to learn about the weather in Trivandrum instead. Vikrant proposed that they attempt to land in Cochin once again since a trip to Trivandrum would leave them with enough fuel to give it another go. They attempted to approach the Cochin runway twice but ultimately gave up and diverted to Trivandrum.

In the meantime, all flights to Trivandrum were being stopped due to an approaching cyclone and low visibility. Mr. Tripathi was asked to relay the information, but he had a panic attack at the moment owing to his personal loss. He carried the paper that had the weather details with him as he was being carried out. As the change in route was announced to the passengers, an aviation journalist on the flight informed the other passengers that the alternative stop was Bengaluru and not Trivandrum. Passengers became agitated and demanded an answer from the pilot. The Captain made the public believe that he was aware of his decision and made a choice knowing the consequences. He promised to land everyone safely, particularly an elderly lady, Alma Asthana.

Major Spoilers Ahead

How Did The Captain Land The Flight? Who Was Narayan Vedant? 

After winning over the trust of the passengers, Vikrant had to handle the bigger problem at hand. The ATC in Trivandrum was relaxed, thinking that after passing the weather information, no other flights would land in the area. But soon, they noticed that Skyline 777 had entered the radius. Tanya contacted the ATC; they were surprised to learn that the pilot was not informed about the weather conditions even after they had shared the information with Cochin ATC. They requested Skyline to reach Bengaluru, but they did not have enough fuel to do so. With the little fuel that they had, they could attempt to land one or two times. The ATC called for ambulances and fire engines since they believed a crash was inevitable.

The ATC asked them to land at runway 16. Captain Khanna tried to land, but he could not align the plane, and he could sense that the plane could crash. This Skyline 777 took off once again, but this time Vikrant demanded ATC to clear off runway 34. The ATC members were left confused and shocked since, according to them, the pilot was taking a major risk, and it was a terrible choice since the air pressure would hit the tail, pushing the flight further off the runway. The Captain announced “May Day,” and he asked the passengers to take their position for impact. Vikrant pulled a cigarette out and placed it between his lips. He closed his eyes and tried to land the plane. He landed the flight with closed eyes and was able to press the brake at the point beyond which the runway ended. He was upheld for saving the lives of 150 people. Even though the media celebrated him, the Directorate of Civil Aviation wanted to question Vikrant. They questioned him and Tanya and collected all things suspicious they found on the flight; a breath test was also set.

Narayan Vedant headed the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau. He was known for getting to the truth, no matter how difficult it was. Even if little details missed the eyes of detectives, they could never get past the eyes of Narayan Vedant. When the owner of Skyline Airways, Nishant Suri, learned that he was investigating the case, he knew it would be difficult to prove innocence. Nishant was worried about losing his stock value and asked Vikrant not to answer any questions during the interrogation. They had managed to keep his drug test report clean, but they did not want him to mess up any further.

‘Runway 34’ Ending Explained: How Did Vikrant Get A Reduced Punishment? Is It Based On A Real Event?

When Vikrant and Tanya were summoned for interrogation by Narayan Vedant, they tried to provide as little detail as possible. But Narayan knew his ways; he wanted to conduct a lie detector test on Vikrant, and he agreed to cooperate. Even though Narayan asked him about the miniature gin bottle they found in the trash, he did not admit to being drunk, and the result showed that he was telling the truth. Unable to get much truth out of Vikrant, he started pressurizing Tanya to the point of breaking her down into tears. She admitted that Vikrant had landed with his eyes closed. This changed the case since it pointed toward how casually he did his job, risking the lives of 150 passengers. He further added that landing on runway 34 was a mistake due to the air pressure on the airplane’s tail.

Vikrant had completely given up on himself and his career, but his wife encouraged him to fight for himself. He could take the first step by confronting the news that was killing him. After landing the flight, Alma Asthana was taken to the hospital, but she eventually died of a heart attack. Vikrant blamed himself for her death, and he finally got the courage to reach out to her daughter and convey how he had tried his best to make the best out of the situation, and he shared his condolences.

The next day at court, when he noticed that Delilah Asthana, her daughter, had come to support his cause, he felt confident enough to explain himself. He explained that he used to fly a private jet and would regularly land on runway 34. Therefore, he knew the runway to its core. He had a photographic memory, and that helped him to land on the 17th of August, 2015. He closed his eyes not because he had given up but to remember the runway with the help of his memory. He demonstrated his skills in a stimulating environment. Narayan was surprised to see the pilot take all the right measurements even with his eyes closed. In the end, Mr. Tripathi at ATC Cochin lost his job as a result of his mistake that led to the mess. Vikrant and Tanya’s licenses were revoked for three months. They received a short suspension since it was not just their fault but also the ATC and the weather.

After three months, Vikrant is back at the airport, ready to fly. When a young pilot asked him what to remember while flying, Vikrant told him to keep the passengers in mind. We also get to know that the mini gin bottle was emptied by a cabin crew member out of fear of a plane crash, and Vikrant kept her secret safe from the rest of the world. She was a single mother, and she was scared of losing her job by admitting the truth. Vikrant was sympathetic to her situation and managed the consequences well.

He entered the washroom and held the cigarette between his lips, and admired himself. He was back to being the proud man that he always was. “Runway 34” is claimed to be based on a true event. It is based on a similar incident that unfolded when a flight was coming from Doha to Cochin. The plane crash-landed due to terrible weather conditions and low visibility. An investigation was conducted that showed how the flight had fuel lower than the amount that was legally allowed. But recently, the Federation of Indian Pilots rejected its claim to be a real event. They expressed that the portrayal of pilots was unrealistic and demeaning. The film, they believe, in a way questions their professionalism. But what is evident is that the film took enough creative freedom to create the character of Captain Vikrant Khanna, while the event might have been inspired by the real incident.

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Srijoni Rudra
Srijoni Rudra
Srijoni has worked as a film researcher on a government-sponsored project and is currently employed as a film studies teacher at a private institute. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies. Film History and feminist reading of cinema are her areas of interest.

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