In the glitzy world of Hollywood, where tales of stardom and glamour dominate the headlines, there lies a riveting chapter in the life of iconic actor John Travolta – a chapter that saw him face the chilling specter of his own mortality high above the clouds.
It was a moment that echoed the gripping narrative of his latest project, Disney+’s The Shepherd, a short film depicting the harrowing journey of a Royal Air Force pilot battling total electrical failure. Travolta, a man of many talents, found a poignant connection to the storyline, drawing from a personal encounter with danger that left him grappling with the raw emotions of impending doom.
Sharing his heart-stopping experience at the London premiere of The Shepherd, the 69-year-old Oscar winner revealed that he too had once stared into the abyss of a potential aviation disaster. With a pilot’s license to his name, Travolta recounted the chilling episode when he faced total electrical failure in a corporate jet over Washington D.C.
“I actually experienced a total electrical failure, not in a Vampire, but in a corporate jet over Washington D.C.,” he disclosed. “So when I read [Frederick Forsyth’s book of the same name], it resonated even more because of this experience I had personally had.”
The gravity of the situation became palpable as he vividly described the gut-wrenching moment when he realized the severity of the crisis. “I knew what it felt like to absolutely think you’re going to die,” Travolta confessed. “I had two good jet engines, but I had no instruments, no electric, nothing. And I thought it was over.”
In a remarkable flashback to 1992, detailed in a 1995 New Yorker feature, Travolta narrated an emergency landing at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. The culprit? A malfunctioning “transducer rectifier” that plunged the aircraft into a perilous situation. A subsequent investigation highlighted the very real threat of a mid-air collision during the incident, involving a Boeing 727 bound for New York.
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“And then as if by a miracle, we descended as per the rules to a lower altitude,” Travolta recalled. “I saw that Washington D.C. monument and identified that Washington National Airport was right next to it, and I made a landing just like [pilot Freddie Hooke] does in the film.”
The actor’s eyes reflected the intensity of the moment as he recounted the terror he felt with his family on board. “And I had my family on board and I said ‘This is it, I can’t believe I’m gonna die in this plane,'” he admitted, the vulnerability in his words resonating with the audience.
Adding a layer of serendipity to the narrative, Travolta revealed that he instantly fell in love with Forsyth’s book when he first read it, though the journey to bring it to the screen was anything but straightforward. Hindered by a bustling schedule after the success of ‘Pulp Fiction,’ he initially relinquished the screen rights. However, destiny had other plans.
When writer and director Iain Softley entered the picture, a spark ignited the dormant project. “There’s very few projects I’ve ever been involved with that were locked in here,” Travolta emphasized, pointing to his heart. “I wanted to have a destiny with it for 30 years.”
“It took 30 years but here I am tonight. But 30 years for me, fantasizing that we’d get this book done because there’s nothing like it I’ve seen,” he added, a testament to the enduring power of dreams and the resilience of a man who once stared death in the face.
In the skies and on the silver screen, John Travolta’s near-death experience becomes a gripping tale of survival, mirroring the very essence of The Shepherd – a story of courage, desperation, and the indomitable human spirit in the face of impending catastrophe.