April 02, 1984 12:00 PM

NBC (Sunday, April 1, 9 p.m. ET)

Here’s another of the Airport ’70s movies, but there is a profound difference: The people here are real, not products of an Irwin Allenesque apocalyptic imagination. This dramatization of the 1982 crash of an Air Florida jet in Washington, which killed 78 people, starts like most disaster films. One by one, you meet the victims and the survivors. You’re supposed to like them and you do. Nothing unusual there. But then the jet crashes and the show becomes immensely stirring. You watch six people fight to survive in the icy waters of the Potomac; you watch a nice-guy bystander (not the well-known Lenny Skutnik, but another, the unknown Roger Olian, played by Richard Masur) swim into the river to offer support; you watch a man give up his life so two others may live. If this were fiction, it would be too wrenching. As fact, it flirts with exploitation, but more often is inspiring.

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