During the premiere’s Q&A, the star, who got his pilot’s license in 1976, told reporters that he once experienced a terrifying “total electrical failure” while flying himself, Preston, their son Jett and four other passengers from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to Rockland, Maine.
He noted that he had been through “what it felt like to absolutely think you're going to die,” during the incident.
“And then as if by a miracle, we descended as per the rules to lower altitude. I saw the Washington D.C. monument and identified that Washington National Airport was next to it and I made a landing just like [Freddie] does in the film,” he shared.
Travolta explained that the horrifying experience was what led him to want to be a part of The Shepard, which was adapted from Frederick Forsyth's 1975 novel.
According to the synopsis, the film “tells the story of Freddie Hooke (played by Ben Radcliffe), a young Royal Air Force pilot flying home for Christmas across the North Sea. Shortly into the journey, his de Havilland Vampire jet suffers total electrical failure, leaving Freddie facing almost certain death” until a “mysterious pilot (played by Travolta) appears in the sky, ready to guide the young man to safety.”
The 69-year-old explained, “When I read [Forsyth’s] book, it resonated even more because of this experience I had personally had.”
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As OK! previously reported, while the plane incident did not kill his wife or son, in 2009, Jett died from a seizure, then, in 2020, the mother-of-three passed away due to b----- cancer.
A source recently spilled that although the actor has had tremendous loss, he is still optimistic for the future.
“Turning 70 is a milestone he’s looking forward to,” the insider spilled, noting, “despite losing Kelly and Jett, John still has a zest for life.”
“It’s been a struggle since Kelly died,” they added. “She made life so beautiful. John misses her every day — her voice, her hugs, everything. She was perfect and hilarious.”
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In addition to Jett, Travolta also had daughter of Ella Bleu Travolta, 23, and Ben Travolta, 13. The family-of-three apparently works to keep their loved ones memories alive every day.
“They talk about Kelly and reminisce about their fun times and their highs and their lows, too,” the insider said. “John has pictures of Kelly around the house and she’s still very much in their lives. Their memories keep them all going.”
Variety spoke with Travolta.