Robert Hays, who famously played sweating, jittery pilot Ted Striker in the classic ’80s movie comedy “Airplane!,” hosts the new A&E clip series “Fasten Your Seatbelt” — but it’s not as campy as it sounds.
OK, well, maybe just a little. Hays does have some street cred when it comes to “Fasten Your Seatbelt,” which uses footage from cellphones and security cameras to document airport and airline incidents both humorous and shocking: his father was a Marine Corps colonel/fighter pilot who won the Distinguished Flying Cross — and Hays is a licensed pilot himself.
“My dad was in [the Marines] for almost 30 years and fought in World War II, Korea and in Vietnam. He was an amazing guy,” said Hays, 73, who learned to fly while starring in the 1979-80 CBS sitcom “Angie.”
“I got my license and wanted to surprise my dad,” he said. “It was something I always wanted to do and that was pre-‘Airplane!’ People say, ‘Oh, you got your [pilot’s] license because you did ‘Airplane!’ — no, I actually got it before that.’ I haven’t flown in a while…I was working on adding to my single-engine land rating and was working on getting a rotor craft [helicopter] rating, which was ridiculously fun…then life came along and I didn’t have the time and pretty soon it sort of slipped away a bit.
“Not as many people know that I’m a pilot than know that I was in [‘Airplane!’] which is why they wanted me — but I’m taking a wild guess there.”
“Fasten Your Seatbelt,” premiering Wednesday (July 21) at 10 p.m., shows people acting boorish (sometimes downright dangerous) or heroic (pilots making emergency landings, people coming to the aid of a fellow passenger), with Hays narrating the clips from an airline terminal set located at a studio in North Hollywood.
The hourlong opener includes security-camera footage of things getting out of hand when an intoxicated man physically attacks a stranger in an Atlanta airport terminal; a furious tickets holder lashes out at a gate agent when her family vacation gets disrupted; a captain leaves the cockpit to take down a passenger and protect a flight attendant; and pilots make emergency landings on US highways. And there’s much more.
“The airports are rough, all that waiting and stuff…all of the things we show in the series,” Hays said. “It’s everything that happens around airports and airplanes, the things people film on their cellphones and what’s on security cameras. Some of them are actually pretty funny; when you have a simple, still camera with no one moving it, there are things that come in and out of the frame that can be very humorous.
“A lot of these incidents…seem to happen because people are imbibing just a little too much,” he said. “In the past, people didn’t hear much about this kind of thing happening but, especially now with cellphones…everyone has a camera. They don’t even say, ‘Do you have a camera?’ they say, ‘Do you have a phone so I can take a picture or a video?’
“After viewers see the show some of them may say, ‘Oh, wait a minute, something happened at the airport that I took a picture of, I wonder if they want to see this?’”