Flight of the Phoenix

Corrected entry: You don't use a circular saw to cut the metal on a plane's wing. You use a torch. Metal on the wing of a plane is strong enough to damage a circular saw.

Correction: That must have come as a surprise to the crew who dismantled a Victor bomber - a military aircraft which would be much sturdier than the C119 Flying Boxcar in this film - using a circular saw. See https://www.edp24.co.uk/news/victor-bomber-scrapped-at-raf-marham-7326968?fbclid=IwAR1nwmkJZMNGQyTnOWw-Uc87_jU3292xJ48wJke8f5ilvVPG1GxAc8w3k-I.

And your point is?

I'm not the commenter above, but it's self explanatory. The claim of "you don't use a circular saw to cut a plane's wing" is proven wrong by the recovery experts in that link using a circular saw to cut into a Vulcan bomber's wing.

It hardly needs further elaboration, but since you insist - a Victor (not a Vulcan) bomber was scrapped by being cut to pieces using circular saws. A Victor bomber was built to much higher standards of strength and durability than a civilian cargo aircraft like the C119 in this film. If a Victor bomber can be cut up with a circular saw as was shown in the link, then a C119 could be cut up by an angry boy scout armed with a tin opener.

Correction: Airplanes are made of aluminium, a softer metal than steel. Add in that since they would be using oil rig-grade equipment, their saws are likely more hardened than standard saw blades and quite possibly have diamond edges. Easily able to cut through the few millimeters thickness of a plane's aluminium skin.


Corrected entry: Some parts of the Gobi are indeed very arid but the size of the truly arid part is exaggerated in the movie; it is ~much~ smaller than the Sahara where the original movie was set. If they are already near or south of the Chinese border, then by simply travelling roughly south east they are bound to find either a major watercourse or substantial civilization within ~at most~ 250 miles, and in the region that is very sandy and subject to severe sandstorms, more likely 40 to 50 miles. Not talking here about trying to strike on a particular small oasis or town, but something so big you can't miss it, e.g. the Hwang Ho (Yellow River). A fit person travelling at night on reasonable ground can do 250 miles in 7 nights. (Actually, as ultramarathoners have demonstrated, a very fit person on good ground can do it in two to three nights.) The suggested impossibility of walking out for help was just an inaccurate plot device forced on the scriptwriter by moving the setting to the Gobi.

Correction: First, fifty to seventy miles in a waterless desert is just as bad as two hundred miles. In fact, you'd be dead in thirty miles because of the desert Catch 22 - you cannot carry the weight of water needed to keep you alive. Ultramarathoners do not rely on the water they carry - they have rest stops and support vehicles, facilities sadly lacking in aircraft crash sites. Secondly, the survivors do not know where they are. They don't know which country they are in, let alone which direction the nearest town or river is. They make the right decision (given the need for drama in a film) - stay with the vehicle.

Corrected entry: During the take off of Phoenix, the port rudder cable is parted. During the close up of Elliot fixing the parted cable, the wind is pushing his hair from his left to right. Given the direction he is facing (port) this would mean the wind is blowing from the tail to the nose, not nose to tail.

Correction: The plane is moving forward at a fairly good speed, and Elliott is resting on the plane with his left side to the front of the plane, because it is moving forward, his hair would then blow from left to right.

Corrected entry: When Dennis Quaid and his co-pilot are going through the pre-flight checklist, they come to the cockpit windows and state that they're "shut and locked". A few seconds later, in an external shot, the co-pilot's window is wide open.

Gary Hahn

Correction: The window is wide open throughout the scene. Townes and his copilot use the preflight check list as an excuse for some macho banter, and neglect such vital procedures as checking that control surface pins are removed (maybe that's why they crashed!) and that engine and hydraulic oil pressure is sufficient for take off. They shouldn't have done things the way they did, but that just makes it a series of character errors.

Correction: I noticed several characters with sunburn, in particular Hugh Laurie.

Corrected entry: When the C-119 first lands at the drilling rig, Frank Towns gets out with one wheel chock and chocks the port landing gear. With his hands empty and Kelly following, he walks round to the starboard side, calling out to A.J. (inside the plane). There we see the starboard landing gear has already been mysteriously chocked. No one else is anywhere near the aircraft.

Correction: A.J. isn't inside the plane - he is outside checking the starboard engine. Townes meets him there after he talks to Kelly. His conversation with her is easily long enough for AJ to put the chock in place.

Corrected entry: After crashing the C-119, when the sandstorm stops we see the entire aircraft is totally buried except the tip of one tail, and they have to force open a roof hatch through which sand proceeds to run. This is a depth of over twenty feet of sand over an area of at least 10,000 sq.ft. Yet the next scene, apparently the same day or just a little after, shows the aircraft totally dug out except for one wingtip. Not only have the survivors shifted approximately 12 thousand tonnes of sand in just a few hours, but there is no apparent reason why they would even bother (at this stage there was no plan for salvage).

Correction: In fact there is a very good reason to dig the aeroplane out - to make it visible from the air. All survival courses teach the same thing; stay with the vehicle, and stay visible from the air.

Corrected entry: We are told that July is the hottest month in the Gobi Desert (which is true) and that it is much hotter than the Mojave Desert in July. This isn't true. In some parts of the Gobi it can get pretty hot in July but due to the high altitude typical July temperatures are 3 ~ 5 degrees cooler than typical Mojave July temperatures. And at one point it is claimed that the action is close to the Altai mountains, and that part of the Gobi is much cooler.

Correction: Townes is trying to convince people to stay put instead of trying to walk to 'safety'. (In fact he is doing things by the book - when lost, you ALWAYS stay with the vehicle.) If he were to say " . in some parts of the Gobi it can get pretty hot in July but due to the high altitude typical July temperatures are 3 ~ 5 degrees cooler than typical Mojave July temperatures . " I really don't think he'd be quite as convincing, do you?

Corrected entry: We are told that the crash is near the Altai mountains, and also that the plane may have crossed the Chinese border. The terrain is very sandy with some rocky outcrops, and the Altai are depicted as low, arid, rocky hills. However the part of the Gobi which is very sandy and close to the Chinese border is hundreds of miles from the Altai. And the Altai are massive, snow capped peaks with glaciers, rivers, lakes and forests.

Correction: We are told they MIGHT have crossed the Chinese border - they don't even know what country they are in. They MIGHT be near the Altai mountains - Townes could be wrong, or deliberately lying to convince people not to try to walk to 'safety' (ie the magnetic Altai mountains will affect the compass).

Corrected entry: In several long distance shots, plus generally working around the wreck, we see there is a completely flat area about 70 m in diameter demarked by several low mounds, followed by a gently undulating area about 200 to 300 m in diameter, then rising ground (dunes) on either flank but continuing fairly flat for quite some distance fore and aft. But a minor character goes out during the night to relieve himself and manages to fall down a hill so steep and long he injures his arm. Unless he went hundreds of metres to relieve himself (climbing a dune en route) there was nowhere near the wreck this fall could have occurred.

Correction: He DID walk hundreds of metres from the wreck. The next day, they other survivors can't even find his body.

Corrected entry: When Dennis Quaid arrives at the site where the man fell out of the airplane, he finds spent bullet casings right next to the body. If someone was using the body for target practice (like he says, and which is the only good reason for shooting at it), the brass would be much farther away.

Correction: It was just a figure of speech. Just another way of saying "he was shot".


Corrected entry: They can build a small aeroplane out of the wreck of a larger one - a considerable feat of engineering in anyone's books - but they can't rig a radio antenna? It's just a length of wire and a stick.

Correction: When talking to Token Woman, Townes states that they have no radio, not that they have no antenna. A propellor smashed through the cockpit directly behind the pilots's seat, and could have destroyed the radio or other equipment upon which it relied to operate.

Corrected entry: When Talbot and the crewman return from the debris field, they approach the C-119 from the nose. The debris field would be in the opposite direction along the flight path.

Correction: There's no one named Talbot in the movie. And if you mean the scene where Towns goes after Liddle, they return from the starboard side of the plane, not the nose. Yes, the debris field should be behind them, but it's quite possible - even likely if he's right-handed - that Liddle veered to the right while walking, which would take him back in the direction the plane came from.

Corrected entry: In the scene where the group is standing in front of the graves for the two men who died, there are two crosses with two mounds of dirt higher than the ground showing where the men are buried. However the body of the man who fell out of the plane wasn't retrieved, as we find out later when he is all shot up. Therefore the area around his cross should be flat.

Correction: You're right that there can't be a grave for the man who fell out, but it is not a mistake to have two graves. THREE people are dead at this point: the guy who fell out, the doctor, and the man who was sitting at the front next to Liddle.

Corrected entry: In the scene where they are deciding to rebuild the plane, you can see a good eye behind Sticky Fingaz' eye-patch.

Correction: You see what LOOKS like a normal eye. He could have a damaged optic nerve, meaning he is blind in the eye but it looks 'normal'. He might have damage to the nerves which open and close his eyelid, meaning an eyepatch is essential but the eye looks normal.

Corrected entry: When discussing building a new plane, Frank Towns observes that the remaining engine puts out "2000 pounds of thrust." A piston aircraft engine's power is measured in horsepower; "pounds of thrust" would be used to measure the power of a jet engine.

Gary Hahn

Correction: If you do a search in google on "prop" "pounds" and "thrust" you can find many websites discussing propeller engines and the pounds of thrust they produce. Horsepower means nothing when you need to understand how much thrust will be produced and its effect on the new aircraft that is much smaller than the engine was built for.

Joshua Skains

Corrected entry: During the crash the co-pilot gets knocked unconscious while standing in the back, then the plane spins around - it goes upside down a couple of times - but the man's body doesn't move even though he's not buckled in.

Correction: Yes, his body moves to the rear of the plane. When Quaid goes back and checks on everyone he is back by the tools. He fell near the front, MAYBE center area of the seats. He just got lucky and got wedged in place.


Corrected entry: In the scene where the oil tank is exploding. When it goes to the close up of the explosion, right after the far-away shot I believe, you can see a man walk in from the right, glance at the camera, then duck down really quickly.

Correction: No, that's supposed to be a character in the film. If you look closely he is shown in the scene right before ducking, when the overview shot comes he ducks again (it's the same explosion, just the latter shot shows a second before the first shot ended).

Corrected entry: Right after the plane crashed, there is an aerial shot and there is nothing within miles of them. However, when Elliott is walking off steps for the runway, he counts only 65 to the canyon cliff. Where did that huge canyon come from?

Correction: Elliott is at a different location than the crash site. He goes searching and selects it because the ground is even and level enough to serve as a runway. Later in the film, the survivors have to drag the Phoenix from the crash site to the "runway" before they can take off.

Corrected entry: At the end of the film we learn that all of the survivors lived happily ever after and went on to enjoy hugely successful careers in their chosen fields. Haven't they forgotten something? Elliot committed a cold blooded murder, shooting dead a wounded nomad because he would have interfered with their construction plans. Self defence is one thing but shooting an injured man in the head in order to conserve water is an entirely different matter. Obviously the Chinese authorities are going to visit the site as soon as the story breaks and they are going to want to know who shot one of the citizens dead, and why. Elliot is going to face a range of serious charges and will be extradited to China to face trial.

Correction: There is no indication that any of the survivors would have told about the man Elliot killed. The nomads wouldn't have told either, as they committed several murders before that and tried to kill them after as well. Elliot also basically put him out of his misery. He was dead anyway.

Greg Dwyer

The Chinese would not have allowed the murder of one of their citizens to go unpunished. We are dealing with a legal system that executes people for crimes that would incur a suspended jail sentence anywhere else. They would not accept euthanasia as a defence, either. Elliot would be on a plane back to China whether he liked it or not.

The USA and China don't have an extradition treaty. China could ask, the US would most likely tell them tough luck, and Elliot would still get to live a happy and successful life. Couldn't ever return to China, but I'm sure he'd cope.

Jon Sandys Premium member

Wrong. If an American citizen commits a crime such as murder or assault or other violent crimes, the American citizen is going to be charged regardless of where the crimes were committed. Even if the crime was committed in a country with which the US doesn't have an extradition treaty, They have have other ways to you charge for your crimes. They don't have to extradite you for you to be charged.

Citation? Because with zero evidence the US isn't going to take China's word for it and charge him themselves. And China can charge him with a crime without him present, and...then what? The charge may technically exist, but it won't affect his life in any meaningful way. And as the original correction notes, officials may want to know what happened, but that doesn't mean they'll find out. This entry is massive conjecture at best.

Jon Sandys Premium member

If evidence to US, like a picture of the body, or a video of the person murdering someone, and you are an American then US will charge you, and sentence you to prison. The only way court would truly decide that you cannot be charged because the crime was committed outside of the US is if you are non-American. We don't know if Elliot is an American citizen.

Again... Citation? A photo of a body isn't evidence. Without evidence you can't be charged. And given the lack of info and detail in the film this is all hypothetical conjecture which still doesn't constitute a mistake.

Jon Sandys Premium member

What about a video of you murdering someone? Would that not prove your guilty?

If you want to have a detailed debate about extradition treaties and what evidence would or wouldn't exist and justify someone being charged with a crime, great, but here isn't the place. The above mistake claims Elliot would face charges and be extradited to China. There's no evidence of his crimes and no extradition treaty with China. People get away with crimes every day. The sole opportunity for evidence is eyewitness testimony, as the correction above points out, and no-one would say anything, plus it would be questionable at best. As such the "mistake" is invalid, end of story.

Jon Sandys Premium member

The Chinese government would first have to know about the murder before they could do anything about it. Given how the sand shifts during the storm after he is killed, enough to at least cover the Phoenix, there is little chance they would ever find the body.

Greg Dwyer

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.


Upvote valid corrections to help move entries into the corrections section.

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.

More mistakes in Flight of the Phoenix

A.J.: Listen up. We got a major problem. Looks like we have to make an emergency landing. Make sure you're strapped in, and if you believe in God, it's time to call in a favor.

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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