John Travolta Opens Up About Near-Death Experience While Flying His Family On Plane

The actor, who is a licensed pilot, said the terrifying moment happened after a "total electrical failure".
John Travolta
John Travolta
Amanda Edwards via Getty Images

John Travolta has spoken out about the wild moment he thought he was “going to die” while flying his plane.

While attending a London screening of his new Disney+ short, The Shepherd, the actor told the audience that he could relate to the film, which follows a young pilot who suffers electrical issues onboard, because of the near-death experience he had while soaring the skies.

The Grease star, who is a licensed pilot, said the mishap happened after he “experienced a total electrical failure” while onboard with his family.

“I actually experienced a total electrical failure [...] in a corporate jet over Washington, D.C.,” John told Variety. “So when I read [Frederick Forsyth’s book of the same name], it resonated even more because of this experience I had personally had.”

He went on to recall: “I knew what it felt like to absolutely think you’re going to die. I had two good jet engines, but I had no instruments, no electric, nothing. And I thought it was over.”

John Travolta in The Shepherd
John Travolta in The Shepherd

Though John didn’t specify when the incident took place, the longtime actor spoke about the startling incident nearly 30 years ago in a New Yorker feature.

He told the outlet in 1995 that he was forced to make an emergency landing at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

“I had the equivalent of seven failures ― contagious failures,” he said, explaining that his “transducer rectifier” wasn’t functioning.

The Pulp Fiction star added: “I claimed an Emergency over the radio. And then everything went. I had one gyro. No flaps. No reverse thrust.

“When I fly, I find great objectivity up there. And I found I was calm. In flying school, they give you what they call a black cockpit. So I felt I’d been there before.”

The actor was flying from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to Rockland, Maine, to celebrate his seven-month-old son’s first Thanksgiving at their island vacation home, according to The Washington Post.

During his appearance in London this week, John said his scrape with death was something of a “miracle.”

“And then as if by a miracle, we descended as per the rules to a lower altitude,” he 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.”

Adapted from a novella by Frederick Forsyth, The Shepherd stars John Travolta, Ben Radcliffe, Steven Mackintosh and Millie Kent. The short film hits Disney+ on Friday 1 December.


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