Arthur Hailey shows his talent for writing suspense in what I believe was his earliest work. The play begins with casual conversation on an ordinary flight, then events transpire which make a previously innocuous-seeming choice one of dire importance. The situation becomes progressively worse, and the tension is steadily ratcheted up right to the climax of the play, where Spencer, untrained and unready, must attempt to land the plane.
Spencer has two huge responsibilities resting on his shoulders. First of all, he must try to land the plane without crashing and killing everyone. Secondly, there is the dire medical situation: many of the passengers are dying. As they near Vancouver, the plane has about three hours of fuel left. Spencer's best option for landing the plane safely is to spend those hours circling around making practice runs so he has a better chance of success. The doctor, however, has told him that many of the passengers have less than an hour left if they don't receive treatment. In addition to the stress of flying and trying to learn landing procedures, Spencer must make a crucial decision. He can stay in the air, optimizing his chances of landing safely but condemning the sick to certain death, or he can attempt to land immediately, heightening the risk that everyone on board will die.
Spencer works well under pressure, perhaps due to his military experience. The only physical hints we have of the toll of these hours of stress are that he has removed his jacket and loosened his tie, and his hair is ruffled. Interestingly, we see these signs mirrored almost exactly in Treleaven, who has removed his jacket and loosened his tie. It is a visual sign that, mentally if not physically, Treleaven is on the plane, sharing in the responsibility and tension of the situation.
In my opinion, one of the best things about 'Flight Into Danger' is that it's about a group of strangers, ordinary citizens, who find themselves in dangerous circumstances and work together to overcome them. To me, this is more realistic- and more inspirational- than narratives in which we have a lone hero rescuing all the helpless and hapless people in peril. All the characters in 'Flight Into Danger' , whether in the plane or on the ground, know what needs to be done and they work together to make it happen. Even the passengers, while unable to do anything to help land the plane, don't lose their heads and do anything which would impede their chances of survival.
* The movie 'Zero Hour' stars one of my favorites, Dana Andrews as Spencer (name changed to Stryker). The B&W images I've used in my two posts on F.I.D. are actually from that movie; I couldn't find any pictures from the original teleplay. Besides, who doesn't like to look at Dana Andrews?
* It is not mandatory, but some airlines now don't allow their pilots to eat the same meal to avoid the possibility of something like this happening.