"Pilot Error"

(Original air date 9/27/74)


At a plane crash inquest Steve is asked to prove the innocence of the pilot,
not knowing the man suffers from a brain tumor


Writer: Edward J. Lakso

Director: Jerry Jameson

At Lindberg field in San Diego, Steve is summoned to testify at an inquest regarding the dubious crash of an aircraft piloted by a highly influential man, Senator and Air Force General Edward Hill (Pat Hingle). He takes place aboard the simulator that recreates the crash landing in order to lend credence to the senator's account of a mechanical failure. After taking the commands, Steve suspects the accident might have been the result of a pilot error.

Oscar travels to San Diego to meet with Steve at the field. He tries to convince him to sway his vote in their favor. Senator Hill is a very important man and an incident of the sort could ruin his political career, not to mention his military one. As a matter of principle, Steve wants to examine every angle before rendering his decision. Oscar adds that he and Steve owe the General a huge favor for he's the one who approved the six million dollar funds for the bionic transplant. Offended, Steve picks up Oscar's car in the middle of the parking lot, stating that if people discovered his strength that the secret would be out and he wouldn't have to take orders from anybody. Oscar yields and drives off mad.


Back at Lindberg, Senator Hill's aide-de-camp, Joe Lannon (Alfred Ryder), informs him that the plane they were expecting to pick them up won't arrive on time. Hill suggests chartering a Cessna and flying to Fort Henry. His son, Greg (Stephen Nathan), and Steve agree to board the single-engine plane with him but Lannon is against the idea while he's under investigation.

Hill insists and all four get settled in the plane. The Senator offers Steve to take the commands but not having slept well the night before, Steve prefers to catch up on some Zs instead.


In flight, while Steve, Greg and Lannon are snoozing, Hill turns on the automatic pilot and puts on some relaxing music.

Meanwhile, on the ground, a weather alert is issued. The master controller (Hank Brandt) attempts to contact the Cessna to warn them of the impending storm but the message doesn't get through.

Minutes into the flight, Hill notices the dark grey clouds ahead but before he can do anything to avoid them, he blacks out, sending the plane straight into the storm.

In the control tower, Airman Jill Denby (Suzanne Zenor), reports for work. Despite the fact that she's asked by her superior, Air Force Major Phillips (Hank Stohl), to keep her eyes peeled for military traffic only, she follows the Cessna on the radar, which is headed for the storm.


Jolted about by the thunderstorm, the sleepy heads awake. Hill tells Steve to turn off the autopilot and contact the tower for authorization to fly by instruments. Steve realizes that the plane is a hundred miles off course and to make matters worse, the transmitter is dead. Hill struggles to hide his disability and tries to go through the storm. A lightning bolt strikes the plane, rupturing an oil line. As Steve repairs it, sparks blind him. Greg takes over and guides his father down to a small clearing where he safely lands the plane.


As a medical student, Greg tends to Steve's eyes and applies a temporary bandage to protect them from the glaring hot sun until he can get professional help.

With a damaged plane, a temperature in the hundreds and no water, their chances of survival appear slim. Lannon is worried this accident might prove that Hill is sick and unfit to fly a plane and suspects Steve will testify to that. With no rescue in sight on account of the storm, Steve suggests they get to work at getting the plane off the ground. He uses his bionic powers to restore the bent blade to its original shape while Hill takes care of the oil line and Greg gets busy on measuring a six-hundred feet runway.


Everyone gets down in the dirt at clearing the runway of hindering rocks, twigs and tumbleweeds.

Taking a rest, Lannon proposes to Hill to leave Steve behind, making believe he was killed in the crash to avoid his testimony of the entire incident. Hill won't hear of it but Lannon doesn't give up the idea. He sees a golden opportunity to put his plan into motion when he sees a rattlesnake slithering near a small bush. He asks Steve over on a false pretence. Steve wrestles with the snake and blindly throws it at Lannon who gets bitten.


Steve and Greg convince Hill to get back in the pilot seat and fly the plane out of this hell hole. Again, Hill blacks out during flight and Steve is forced to take over, using Greg as his eyes.

Oscar arrives at the control tower and is filled in on the latest events. With the transmitter out of order, Steve uses Morse code to transmit a message to the tower. Jill guides them safely back on the ground.


At the Army hospital, the doctor (Dennis McCarthy), examines Steve's eyes. The right one checks out fine because of Greg's first aid but that the left will have to be looked at by Steve's personal physician, Dr. Wells.

In the hallway, Oscar informs Steve that the Hill has resigned from the senate and the Air Force on account of a brain tumor the doctors discovered.

Outside, Steve crosses path with Airman Denby and thanks her warmly for having saved his life.


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