Is On a Wing and a Prayer based on a True Story? Movie Explained

By Louie Fecou
Published: April 8, 2023 (Last updated: August 17, 2023)

Is On a Wing and a Prayer based on a True Story? We discuss whether the 2023 Amazon Prime Video movie is based on real events.

Academy Award dodging Texan Dennis Quaid, roller skating ex-Twin Peaks resident Heather Graham, and Jesse Metcalfe are the lead cast members in this gripping new survival thriller On a Wing and a Prayer.

As the title might suggest, this is a thrilling drama set on a plane when every passenger’s worse nightmare transpires. Almost everything that could go wrong does go wrong, and you almost feel like checking off a bingo board as problem after problem arrives to test the resolve and faith of our characters.

With such a premise, you find yourself wondering if this could happen, so with that in mind, this disastrous article will ask the question, is On a Wing and a Prayer based on a true story, and we hope to stick the landing.

What is the movie On a Wing and a Prayer about?

The movie follows a series of events on a privately chartered plane with the White family returning home after a family member’s funeral.

Dad Doug, mum Terri and their two daughters have been mourning the death of Doug’s brother and are now en route back to Louisiana, and Doug has managed to get a seat next to the pilot at the front of the plane. Doug, a man of faith, has had his world rocked by the death of his brother, and his faith will be tested further as the pilot slumps down dead, leaving Doug at the wheel.

Doug manages to get in touch with air traffic control, and the tension mounts as he attempts to bring the plane down in one piece.

Is On a Wing and a Prayer based on a True Story?

This film is based on a true story. The setup is all true, as depicted in the movie. The real-life Doug White and his family had attended his brother’s funeral and were on a flight back to Louisiana in April 2009. The private chartered plane took off from Marco Island, Florida, and tragically, after the take-off, Joe Cabuk, their retired jet pilot, became unconscious.

Doug took the plane’s controls and contacted the control tower to explain their position. The Fort Myers International Airport was in a position to accept the plane that would have to essentially perform an emergency landing, and all other flights were re-routed.

On the front line was Lisa Grimm, an experienced pilot and an air traffic controller at the Miami Air Route Traffic Control Centre. To enable Doug to take control of the plane, she asked Doug to turn off the auto-pilot and handle the controls manually in what must have been a nightmarish moment.

Incredibly, Doug had taken flight lessons for 150 hours, but he had learned in a single-engine Cessna 172, and that was a completely different craft than the one he was in charge of now.

Is On a Wing and a Prayer based on a book?

No, the film is based on the true story of the events that happened, but the screenplay was written by Brian Egeston, and Sean McNamara directed the film.

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