A Sean McNamara directorial venture, ‘On a Wing and a Prayer’ is based on the incredible true story of Doug White and his family. While returning home to Archibald, Louisiana, from Marco Island, Florida, in a King Air 200 N559DW plane with his family on Easter Sunday 2009, he discovers that the plane’s pilot has fallen unconscious, leaving him with no other choice but to take control of the aircraft. With the help of several air traffic controllers and a certain Flight Instructor, Kari Sorenson (Jesse Metcalfe), Doug successfully lands the plane. If you are wondering whether Sorenson is an actual person and where he is now, we got you covered.
Is Kari Sorenson a Real Person?
Yes, Kari Sorenson is a real person. In the movie, Doug White discovers within 10 minutes after the take-off that the pilot, Joe Cabuk, has fallen unconscious. But before losing his senses, the latter taught him how to operate the radio on King Air. Doug uses what he has learned to reach ground control, and the Miami Air Route Traffic Control Center crew is the first to respond. They later pass him to Fort Meyer Airport, where they find a pilot, Brian Norton, to help him, yet even he had never flown a King Air. This prompts Dan Favio, another Air Traffic Controller, to contact Kari Sorenson, a friend he made while posted in Danbury, Connecticut.
According to Favio, the real Sorenson could fly anything. And indeed, he had flown a King Air before, yet he hadn’t done that since 1995. Fortunately, Sorenson still had the manuals and cockpit layout. So, a chain of information was formed to help Doug. Sorenson spoke to Favio, who talked to Norton, who spoke to Doug. With their help, the latter learned enough to fly a King Air in 20 minutes that he succeeded in landing it safely.
Reflecting on the real person he portrays in the film, Metcalfe told CT Insider, “[Sorenson] didn’t act like he was a hero; he just acted like he was sort of in the right place at the right time to do the right thing. But in the world of our script, it’s sort of painted as though it was a cathartic experience for him to be able to help save the White family.”
The film takes certain creative liberties while depicting the story. For instance, despite what is shown in ‘On a Wing and a Prayer,’ Sorenson and Doug never communicated during the flight. The actual Flight Instructor seems to be okay with it. “[Hollywood] has a job to do too. Their job is to sell movies,” he told the same outlet.
Where is Kari Sorenson Now?
Kari Sorenson still lives in Danbury and is now engaged to Ashley Harrison (portrayed by Anna Enger Ritch in the film), who was there with him when the incident happened. “We’ve seen Maggie and Bailey [Doug’s daughters who were with him on the plane along with Kerri]. They got married, and now they have kids of their own. And to see the family happy and growing up, and now to see their little girls starting to grow up, it’s just a good feeling,” Harrison told CT Insider.
Sorenson received flight lessons from his father, who died in a plane crash in White Plains, New York, in 1981. His stepfather was one of the victims of the TWA Flight 800 tragedy. But these tragic incidents didn’t diminish his love for flying. Favio was pretty much accurate when he said Sorenson could fly anything. When the Flight Instructor retired in 2009 to be more involved in his daughter’s life, he had clocked in 3,500 hours of flight time in a King Air.
Sorenson and Harrison began their relationship in 2008 and have been business partners since 2015. “It’s extremely difficult to describe because we were all very clinical throughout this process. The controllers had a job to do, and I had a job to do, and we all did it well together,” he recalled about the incident. “And then it kind of brought back that flashback of, ‘Holy cow, it could have ended differently.’”
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