Island in the Sky

Synopsis: A C-47 transport plane, named the Corsair, makes a forced landing in the frozen wastes of Labrador, and the plane's pilot, Captain Dooley, must keep his men alive in deadly conditions while waiting for rescue.
Genre: Adventure, Drama
Director(s): William A. Wellman
Production: Paramount Pictures
109 min

This is a story about professional pilots

and their special guarded world...

their island in the sky.

Before takeoff, a professional pilot

is keen, anxious...

but lest someone read his true feelings,

he is elaborately casual.

The reason for this is that he is about

to enter a new, though familiar, world.

The process of entrance begins

a short time before he leaves the ground...

and is completed the instant he is in the air.

In the world aloft, the factors of life

and death assume their proper values.

Professional pilots are, of necessity,

uncomplicated, simple men.

Their thinking must remain straightforward,

or they die violently.

Many professional airline pilots

were attached...

to the Army Air Transport Command

soon after the war with Germany began.

They were of the Army, but not in it.

For a time, they continued to wear

their airline uniforms...

but extremes of cold and heat,

the rigors of far-flung operations...

frequently reduced them

to an identifying cap.

The men in this story

are fictitious characters...

but their counterparts can be found

in cockpits all over the world.

Now they are flying a war,

tomorrow they will be flying a peace...

for regardless of the world's condition,

flying is their life.

There are other stories,

some perhaps more heroic...

but no matter what story

might have been selected...

or wherever on earth

or in the air it might take place...

the men involved would be

much the same as Murray...




and Dooley.

We are going to pick up some ice.

D'Annunzia, see if you can get us

a cross-bearing from Desolation Island.

Can't raise them.

- How about Goose Bay?

- Nothing doing.

It's the northern lights. We got to wait.

Murray, where do you think we are?

Right here, Captain.

Where's right here?

How far from the Labrador Coast?

Two hundred miles, perhaps 220.

You could be wrong. I got a hunch

we're almost over the coast.

Figure out what kind of ground speed

we'd have to make...

to be over that there Hamilton River

Peninsula in about 10 minutes.

We'd have to make

200 miles per hour, Captain.

That could just hardly be possible!

Anything, mind you, anything

can happen up here, Murray.

- Something wrong?

- No, that is, not yet.

After 15,000 flying hours...

you are suspicious, cynical...

and most of all, humble.

Behind you are the days and nights

of airline flying...

and the simple formula that if you take

good care of your own neck...

your passengers will likewise

remain in good health.

Frank, I got a hunch

we're in for a long ride.

We got to get something on this radio.

Maybe we'll find a hole yet.

I doubt it.

If we did, we couldn't use it.

Don't know where we are.

Want to head back for Greenland?

Would you like to tangle with that fjord

at night, young fella?

Not me, Daddy. Just an idea I had.

You can bust your tokhes

with ideas like that.

Besides, we couldn't make it anyway.

Yeah, we got to watch our consumption.

If we can't get into Goose Bay,

we got to go on to Presque Isle.

We need all the gas we got.

You don't worry about rough air.

It's just uncomfortable.

You don't worry about snow,

or even the static.

You do worry about the winds up here.

They are invisible and can be so powerful.

But most of all, you worry about ice.

It can kill.

Have you ever been afraid?

It's something like hunger.

It comes faithfully to all men who fly to live.

It comes when something is wrong,

seen or unseen.

It comes when an engine sputters and dies.

It comes in a thunderstorm

when the instruments go mad.

It comes at the end of a blind approach...

when the ground fails to appear.

It comes, like now...

when doubt creeps through your mind.

I just worked Goose Bay, Captain!

- Why don't they turn on the range?

- He says it's on.

I can't hear anything.

Goose Bay tried to take a bearing on us,

but he says our signals are too weak.

- How about Greenland?

- Still no go.

- Did you try Montreal?

- Yeah, on that special frequency.

- Nothing?

- Nothing.

What's the frequency of that

little broadcasting station...

Mont Joli on the St. Lawrence?

790, I think. Wait a second. I'll look it up.

790 is right, Captain.

We'll give it a try for a bearing.

I can hear some guy.

That must be it.

It's kind of weak, but it's there.

He's talking in English. It should be French.

It's 15 past the hour.

There should be a station announcement.

If they don't announce in French,

it's not Mont Joli.

This is station KTRA,

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Skip! Funny how that does that

so much up here.

Where do you think we are now?

Just coming up on the St. Lawrence.

Maybe 50 miles this side of it.

With no stars or radio,

it's pretty hard to be sure.

Good boy. When you talk like that

I can believe you.

We must have missed Goose Bay

altogether. Went way south.

We couldn't have gone north.

Not on this course.

Then we're east of course,

so we'll take a new one.

- Fly 270, Frank.

- 270, Daddy.

- D'Annunzia!

- Yeah.

Transmit blind and keep sending.

Ask anyone you can raise for a bearing.

- She's sinking again.

- Yeah!

Run her up to 2,500.

Thirty-five inches of boost!

Stankowski. Murray! D'Annunzia.

More alcohol on the props.

We can't keep this course any longer.

We gonna have to get out of this ice,

right now.

D'Annunzia, get through

to Goose or anybody.

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Ernest K. Gann

Ernest Kellogg Gann (October 13, 1910 – December 19, 1991) was an American aviator, author, sailor, and conservationist. He is known for his novels Island in the Sky and The High and the Mighty and his classic memoir of early commercial aviation Fate Is the Hunter, all of which were made into major motion pictures. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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