I can't tell you just how excited I was when I found out the movie's been posted on Youtube. I saw this when I was a kid and was appropriately freaked out as only a kid could be freaked out. When I watched it again a couple of nights ago (and after several, several years of not thinking about it), I'm more appreciative of the legend than ever though the movie itself doesn't really hold up to time.
The ghost sightings have been documented in a book put out back in the 70s, and this movie was based on it.
The story deals with psychometry, which is a theory that's always fascinated me, i.e., that a person can somehow imprint himself (his energy) onto an object according to the movie, and it's a process that usually happens when a sudden and especially violent death takes place.
Anyway, the movie itself has its creepy moments, especially when the flight attendants see the flight engineer's apparition in different parts of the plane, though that's pretty much it. There's nothing else that can give you a touch of the goosebumps, though there's also that tragic reminder of the ghost's need to somehow save flights that have undetected problems.
Because, yes, in life, the flight engineer failed to save the plane, so that desire (likely fueled by guilt) is carried into the afterlife.
The whole idea of pschometry, though, especially when you're looking at why other planes are suddenly being haunted by the dead flight engineer, is pretty darned interesting. In short, parts of the original plane wreck had been salvaged and used on other planes.
And these planes with their recycled parts are the ones getting all of the crews' reports of hauntings. I've never read the book, but in the movie, it's suggested that the flight engineer's ghost shows itself around those salvaged parts. Oven doors, seats, and even windows suddenly show either a reflection of the dead man or the person himself quietly sitting in a seat that was vacant just a second ago.
The movie's ending is so quick and anticlimactic that it's very much a letdown, but if the events surrounding the ghost's eventual "exorcising" are based on true events, well, one shouldn't expect a major scene. For a kid, this movie was definitely shudder-inducing. For an adult, it holds a different kind of interest, though it does take a bit of effort ignoring the cringe-y dialogue.
I think this is one movie that could be better in a remake, but at the same time, it's out of respect for the remaining family of the victims that I'm not really keen on the idea. It definitely got me thinking a lot about psychometry, however, though not as a factual thing (it's a phenomenon that's never been proven) but more of a jumping-off point for story ideas. Because you all know how my brain works when it comes to the kind of horror fiction I like most, and this one has so much potential, it's delicious.