The captain William "Whip" Whitaker of South Jet Air is a divorced man with an estranged ex-wife and son and is having an affair with the flight attendant Katerina "Trina" Marquez. Whip spends the night in Orlando with Trina drinking and using cocaine. On the next morning, he assumes the Flight 227 to Atlanta and he faces turbulence at the take-off. Out of the blue, the plane has a mechanical problem and the skilled Whip crashes the plane in an empty field and saves the lives of ninety-six persons on board; however, four passengers and two crew members are killed. Whip learns that there will be an investigation by his friend Charlie Anderson from the union and the defense lawyer Hugh Lang tells him that he may have a life sentence since his blood test indicates that he was intoxicated with alcohol and drugs. Charlie and Hugh also advise him to keep sober over the next few days. But Whip is an alcoholic and struggles to control his addiction.