On a Wing and a Prayer is a biographical film that follows Doug White, an airplane passenger who assumes control of the aircraft after the pilot dies during flight. It is now streaming on Netflix.
Warning: This article contains heavy spoilers
Doug White, a 56-year-old pharmacist, attempts to land a Cessna plane alongside his brother, Jeff, but loses faith and lets the expert land it instead. His brother tells him to get a new hobby.
Doug and Jeff win a barbecue competition but later in the day, Doug gets the news that Jeff has passed away. He is heartbroken at losing another person close to him, after his father and uncle. He also begins to question the existence of God.
After attending the funeral with his wife, Terri, and daughters, Maggie and Bailey, he boards a private flight to return to Louisiana on Easter 2009.
Joe Cabuk, the pilot, asks Doug to accompany him in the cockpit while he flies the plane. He happily accepts, unaware of the events that are about to follow.
Within 10 minutes of the plane taking flight, Joe loses consciousness. Doug panics and communicates with the air traffic authority.
He contacts the Miami centre and begins getting instructions. Lisa Grimm, an air traffic controller, assumes command and directs Doug.
They plan to divert him to Fort Myers. Doug is advised to turn off autopilot and take control of the plan in order to change course.
Meanwhile, Donna, a child who’s an aviation enthusiast, tracks the incident using her skills and calls over her friend, Buggy, to tell him about the emergency.
Unable to understand Lisa’s jargon, Doug asks her to speak in a simpler language. She does so and continues to calm him down.
When the aircraft is transferred to Fort Myers, Dan Favio, an aspiring air traffic controller, quickly contacts his friend, Kari Sorenson, as he knows nobody in the room has enough experience flying a King Air plane.
Kari, who is undergoing a tumultuous relationship with his girlfriend, Ashley, is alarmed at the situation and decides to help.
Doug is asked to change the frequency to Fort Myers, but they lose him. Dan is told by his boss to stop taking instructions from Kari, but when a colleague finds out he has experience flying the King Air, he asks for help through the phone.
Kari states that Doug needs to do about five things right to land the plane, but if he doesn’t get the first right, he won’t live to see the other four.
To aid him further, Kari and Ashley build a version of the cockpit in their house. He asks her to be his co-pilot for the task.
On a Wing and a Prayer ending explained in detail:
Does Doug avoid the storm?
The authorities notice a storm approaching and try to tell Doug to turn, but he can only see water and is unable to ascertain the direction.
Kari realises this and tries to think of a way. He deciphers the fact that King Air is basically a bigger and fancier version of a Cessna, which is a single-engine aircraft.
He sends the message to Doug, who claims he can definitely fly it like a single-engine plane, and successfully makes the turn.
Does Doug successfully land the plan?
After changing course, the plane is headed straight towards a landing strip. Donna and Buggy realise the airport is nearby and rush to witness the landing.
He tries to land but the wind conditions don’t allow it. Before the plane falls apart, he pulls it back up. Dan’s phone stops working, forcing Kari and Ashley to find Doug’s number through the database.
Doug is mentally and physically tired and has started to believe they won’t make it. Terri motivates him but is unsure, herself.
Just then, they get a call from Kari, who tells them he lost his family in a similar way and will make sure to save them this time.
He attempts the landing again and leaves the throttle just like Kari instructs. He sticks the landing, and he and his family are overjoyed and relieved at once. The authorities celebrate as well.
What happens after the landing?
After the landing, Doug is so tired that he hallucinates. He sees Jeff alongside him, who tells him that during childhood, when Doug crashed their Dad’s pickup truck, he had told him to release the clutch and gas.
He jokes that thanks to personal growth, Doug wasn’t afraid to take that decision this time around. The staff asks him to cut the engine off, and Jeff disappears. Doug also apologises to God for losing belief.
Donna and Buggy catch the whole incident, and the former states she wants to be a pilot more than ever. Kari tells Ashley that he loves her and they reconcile. Dan is promoted to air traffic controller because of his decision-making.
Cabuk is laid to rest in Louisiana. Doug visits his grave often. Following the incident, he gets calls from popular shows such as The Ellen DeGeneres Show and The Oprah Show to make an appearance.
At the end of the film, the current real-life status of all the characters is revealed along with details, including the fact that Doug went on to get certified and flew planes for relief missions.