Is On a Wing and a Prayer’s Brian Norton a Real Person? Where is He Now?

Image Credit: NATCA/Facebook

Amazon Prime’s ‘On a Wing and a Prayer’ tells an incredible true story, where a group of seemingly ordinary people come together and accomplish something heroic. The plot revolves around the White family. In the summer of 2009, they visit Marco Island, Florida, to attend the funeral of Jeff White, the brother of the family patriarch, Doug White (Dennis Quaid). On their way back home to Archibald, Louisiana, a week later on a King Air 200 N559DW plane (which Doug owned in real life and leased through his company, White Equipment Leasing LLC), the pilot loses consciousness within 10 minutes of take-off, leaving Doug with no other choice but to take control of the plane.

Equipped with his past experience flying different planes and the help of several air traffic controllers who are extremely good at their job, Doug manages to land the aircraft safely. One of these air traffic controllers is Brian Norton.

Brian Norton is Based on an Actual Person

Yes, Brian Norton is based on a real person, though Norton is white in real life, whereas E. Roger Mitchell, a black actor, portrays him in the film. Beyond that, ‘On a Wing and a Prayer’ faithfully depicts what really transpired that day. Norton was about to leave work at Fort Meyer Airport when his boss chased him down and told him about the emergency situation they had. Norton was reportedly the only person at the airport on that Easter Sunday with any piloting experience. But Norton had never flown a King Air. This prompted fellow air traffic controller Dan Favio to reach out to his friend Kari Sorenson, a flight instructor based out of Connecticut. Although the last time Sorenson had flown a King Air it was 1995, he still had the manuals and cockpit layout.

Image Credit: FS MaNiA/YouTube

Norton, who was 48 years old at the time, directly communicated to Doug everything he heard from Favio, who was, ‘in turn, relaying everything Sorenson told him. Doug got his pilot’s license back in 1990 and pretty much forgot about it for the next two decades. In the late 2000s, he clocked in about 150 hours of flight time in a single-engine Cessna 172s, but those planes are vastly different from a King Air, which are bigger, faster, and more complicated.

Against all odds, Norton and the others helped Doug learn how to fly a King Air in 20 minutes and played a crucial role in the White family’s survival that day. Asked in an NPR interview whether Norton had spoken to Doug and his family since the incident, the air traffic controller stated, “Yes, I’ve talked to him a couple of times on the phone. A really nice guy. Got to meet him in person about a month ago. He flew down to Marco Island and stopped by the facility to say hi, and I really like him a lot. He’s a really nice guy.”

Brian Norton is an Airplane Mechanic Now

Image Credit: FS MaNiA/YouTube

About a year after the King Air incident, Norton and five others received the National Air Traffic Controller Association’s Archie League Medal of Safety Award. In October 2015, Norton reportedly assumed the post of air traffic controller at the Punta Gorda Tower (PGD), which was a new addition to the NATCA at the time. Norton has since retired and is currently self-employed as an airplane mechanic.

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