Like in the Amazon Prime movie, the On a Wing and a Prayer true story confirms that Doug White, his wife Terri, and their two daughters, Bailey (16) and Maggie (18), had traveled to Marco Island in South Florida to attend the funeral for Doug's brother, Jeff, who had died from a heart attack. They chartered a private plane to fly them back to Monroe, Louisiana. The plan was to drop Doug off first in Jackson, Mississippi where he'd left his truck (the family lived in the community of Archibald, Louisiana). The twin-engine plane they boarded for the return trip was a King Air 200. The pilot was 67-year-old Joe Cabuk, a former jet pilot in the Air Force. -The Christian Chronicle
As seen in the Amazon Prime Doug White movie, he was a Louisiana pharmacist. White had received a Doctor of Pharmacy from Northeast Louisiana University and eventually owned a pharmacy called Medi-shop in Mangham, Louisiana. His wife Terri was a competing pharmacist, which is how they met. Instead of continuing to operate as competitors, they merged their businesses into one pharmacy.
The On a Wing and a Prayer movie true story reveals that Doug White owned the King Air plane he was on with his family and had been leasing it to an air charter firm. He had purchased the plane in 2008 as both a business venture and a tax write-off. However, when the economy crashed that year, his plan didn't work out as he'd hoped. -NBC News
Yes. In analyzing the On a Wing and a Prayer fact vs. fiction, we learned that Doug's wife Terri said that she was annoyed by his tone at first, thinking that he wanted a soda. She had been sitting in the passenger cabin with their two teenage daughters, Bailey and Maggie. Terri had been reading; Maggie, a student at Louisiana State University, was doing homework; and their younger daughter, Bailey, was trying to nap. When Terri entered the cockpit, Doug nodded his head to the left as if to say, "Look over there."
"Joe — his head was bent over, and spit was coming out of his mouth," Terri recalled. "And I — just instinct — I just started shaking his shoulder, saying 'Joe! Joe!' And finally, Doug said, 'Terri, leave him alone. He's dead.' And that's when my heart went into overdrive." -The Christian Chronicle
Yes. Doug was concerned that the pilot's body might tip over onto the control yoke. In real life, the space was too small and his wife Terri and daughter Maggie couldn't move the 200-plus-pound pilot. Terri instead tried to pull his shoulder harness tighter to ensure he remained upright. Unlike what's seen in the movie, the pilot's body never tipped over onto the controls, sending the plane into a rapid descent. However, in the audio recording of Doug White's communication with air traffic control at Fort Myers, he does say, "I [gotta] keep this pilot off the control," indicating that the pilot's body was close to the yoke and Doug was concerned he'd tip onto it.
In the film, they're able to get the pilot out of his seat and Terri (Heather Graham) is depicted as sitting next to Doug in the cockpit, which never happened in real life. In fact, after being unable to move the pilot, Doug had Terri and Maggie return to the passenger cabin where they remained for the rest of the flight.
Yes. Like in the Doug White movie, dozens of air traffic controllers hurried to reroute flights so that Fort Myers International Airport could accept the King Air that was now in the hands of White, a passenger. "You find me the longest, widest runway you can, ma'am," White told air traffic controller Lisa Grimm, who was an experienced pilot herself. -CNN
Yes. In conducting our On a Wing and a Prayer fact-check, we learned that White did try to turn the plane's autopilot system back on. However, doing so started to steer the plane north toward the direction of Jackson, Mississippi, the destination that the deceased pilot, Joe Cabuk, had programmed into the system. -NBC News
Yes. As indicated in the On a Wing and a Prayer cast vs. real people section at the top of this article, Metcalfe's character, Kari Sorenson, is based on the real-life Danbury, Connecticut pilot and flight instructor who helped talk Doug White through landing the twin-engine plane. Like in the movie, Dan Favio, a developmental air traffic controller in Fort Myers, reached out to his friend Sorenson, who was certified in flying the King Air plane.
In order to keep things as simple as possible, Sorenson said that he told White only the most critical information that was needed to land the plane safely. "Doug learned to fly that plane in 20 minutes. I don't think you could have made the plane more complex or the pilot less experienced and have had a successful landing," Sorenson said at a 2010 ceremony in Orlando honoring White and those involved. It's worth noting that in real life, Sorenson did not talk to Doug White directly over the phone. He instead gave the instructions to his friend, air traffic controller Dan Favio, who relayed them to another controller, Brian Norton, who was the one talking to White (Sorenson never called the deceased pilot's cell phone to talk directly to White).
No. In the movie, Bailey White (Abigail Rhyne) has an allergic reaction after she eats a chocolate bar, which her sister Maggie (Jessi Case) discovers was processed in a facility that uses peanuts. Maggie then has to desperately reach through a cargo net into the luggage area at the back of the plane to retrieve Bailey's EpiPen from her backpack. It might make for a dramatic moment in the film, but it never happened in real life.
No. The entire ordeal lasted about 50 minutes. The only significant turbulence that Doug White mentioned encountering in real life was when they took off and began to ascend through the clouds. At that point, their pilot, Joe Cabuk, was still alive and in control. In reality, Doug had blue and sunny skies during the ordeal. While landing at Fort Myers, there was "no wind." In one of the movie's biggest liberties with the truth, the family flies into a storm with thunder and lightning, which never happened in real life. They also never lost communication with air traffic control.
No. In the movie, a young girl named Donna (Raina Grey), who wants to be a pilot like her father, listens to live air traffic controller transmissions online. She stumbles across Doug White (Dennis Quaid) communicating with a controller. Realizing the magnitude of the situation, she tells her friend Buggy (Trayce Malachi) to come over. They eventually ride their bikes to the airport and sneak in to watch the plane land. This part of the storyline, including these two characters, is entirely fictional.
Yes. The White family attended the Forsythe Church of Christ in Monroe, Louisiana. It's true they did a lot of praying during their perilous situation on the plane. Not long after the pilot died, Doug turned to his family and said, "You all start praying hard." -NBC News
"I mean, what could I do? Nothing, just sit there and pray and, you know, throw up," said the White's teenage daughter, Maggie. -CNN
It's no accident that the movie is called On a Wing and a Prayer. The Whites turned down previous offers to turn their story into a movie and finally decided to go with the filmmakers who were willing to create a faith-based film. "Faith in the life of a Christian is only increased, made stronger, when we go through trials and are delivered on the other side," said the real Doug White. "… When you are facing challenges and seeking God's help and then watch his deliverance, your faith is increased. Without tests and trials, there would be no need for faith." -Harding.edu
Terri White said that for a long time, she didn't understand the reason that God had saved them. "And then when they started talking about that movie, it clicked. I thought, that's got to be it, because it's a faith-based movie. And I'm hoping that it's going to open a lot of people's eyes and turn them around and make them Christians. That's my whole plan." -The Christian Chronicle
White and his family were in the air for approximately 30 minutes after their pilot fell unconscious from sudden cardiac death roughly 10 minutes after taking off. Their entire flight was not more than 50 minutes. The movie lengthens the flight a bit, in part by having White abort his first landing attempt due to a crosswind shifting the plane, which didn't happen in real life. He landed smoothly on his first try.
Yes. Numerous emergency vehicles, including police cars, ambulances, and fire trucks, were waiting on the ground as Doug White safely landed the plane on the 12,000-foot-long Runway 6 at Fort Myers International Airport shortly after 2 p.m. on Easter Sunday 2009. Runway 6 at Fort Myers is unusually long because it had been used as a backup runway for the Space Shuttle in case it couldn't land at Cape Canaveral. In researching the On a Wing and a Prayer true story, we learned that EMTs spent 30 minutes trying to revive the pilot, Joe Cabuk, but to no avail. It was revealed later that Cabuk had died of sudden cardiac death, which is similar to a heart attack (both result in a loss of blood flow to the brain). -NBC News
Yes. At a ceremony in Orlando the following year, Doug White and his family reunited with the aviation experts who helped get them to the ground safely. The family was stunned to learn that they had been given a less than ten percent chance of making it through the ordeal alive. -CNN