Making a transcontinental plane flight in only thirteen hours was quite an achievement when this film was made in 1936 -- but it was not impossible, as indicated by Paramount's last-minute decision to "downsize" the film's original title, Twenty Hours by Air. In anticipation of Airport 34 years later, womanizing pilot Jack Gordon (Fred MacMurray) is called upon to safely guide his plane through a blinding blizzard. His task is complicated by a trio of crooks who are escaping from the law after pulling a jewel heist, and by a shady nobleman (Fred Keating) who offers Gordon a large amount of money if he will land the plane before San Francisco. In the climax, one of the passengers hijacks the plane, only to be foiled by -- of all people -- an obnoxious brat of a youngster (Bennie Bartlett). Oh yes, and before this eventful flight has reached its conclusion, self-styled Lothario Jack has decided to settle down with one girl, wealthy Felice Rollins (Joan Bennett), who, during one of the many crises, is briefly pressed into service as Jack's copilot. Thirteen Hours by Air was produced with the technical assistance of United Airlines.
by Hal Erickson synopsis