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"The Arrival" is an episode from the third season of the The Twilight Zone. It involves a plane that lands without any crew or passengers aboard and the men who must solve the mystery of what happened to them. It is a modern update of the tale of the Flying Dutchman.
"This object, should any of you have lived underground for the better parts of your lives and never had occasion to look toward the sky, is an airplane, its official designation a DC-3. We offer this rather obvious comment because this particular airplane, the one you're looking at, is a freak. Now, most airplanes take off and land as per scheduled. On rare occasions they crash. But all airplanes can be counted on doing one or the other. Now, yesterday morning this particular airplane ceased to be just a commercial carrier. As of its arrival it became an enigma, a seven-ton puzzle made out of aluminum, steel, wire and a few thousand other component parts, none of which add up to the right thing. In just a moment, we're going to show you the tail end of its history. We're going to give you ninety percent of the jigsaw pieces and you and Mr. Sheckly here of the Federal Aviation Agency will assume the problem of putting them together along with finding the missing pieces. This we offer as an evening's hobby, a little extracurricular diversion which is really the national pastime in the Twilight Zone."
After flight 107 from Buffalo lands safely with no crew or passengers on board, the FAA sends Grant Sheckly, an inspector with 22 years of experience and a flawless record of solving cases, to investigate the matter. He is assisted by the airport staff — Vice President Bengston, PR man Malloy, mechanic Robbins, and ramp attendant Cousins — but despite their combined efforts, no one can explain how an empty plane could safely land and taxi to a stop.
The investigation continues to prove fruitless until Robbins remarks about the plane's blue seats, which puzzles Sheckly since he remembers them as being brown when he entered the plane. Bengston says they were red. When they examine the plane's tail and each see different registration numbers, Sheckly comes to a conclusion: the plane is not real but merely an illusion.
To prove his theory, as well as to break the illusion, Sheckly proposes a simple but potentially fatal test: he will put his arm in the path of the plane's running propeller. Despite the objections, he convinces the staff to go along with it, and Robbins starts the plane's engines. After some hesitation, Sheckly places his arm directly into the path of the spinning propeller; just as he predicted, his arm remains completely intact, and the plane vanishes. However, when Sheckly turns to reassure the others, he is met only with silence, as they each disappear just as the plane did.
Calling out for the staff, Sheckly makes his way back to the Operations room and meets up with Bengston and Malloy, only to discover that they have no recollection of the empty plane or Sheckly's investigation. When asked, Bengston states that flight 107 from Buffalo landed safely with full crew and passengers and shows him a newspaper article to prove it, but further questions by Sheckly reveal that the only plane that the airline ever lost was a flight 107 from Buffalo, about 17 or 18 years ago. The case had been investigated by Sheckly but was never solved, the only case he never figured out, closed as "presumed crashed for reasons unknown." Sheckly slowly makes his way out of the Operations room, weakly repeating that he has a perfect record of solving cases. As he wanders through the airfield he calls out, demanding to know where flight 107 is, what happened to it, and why it went down. "Why didn't you ever tell anyone what happened to you?", he asks, then he sags onto the runway as the sound of an aircraft engine is heard above him.
"Picture of a man with an Achilles' heel, a mystery that landed in his life and then turned into a heavy weight, dragged across the years to ultimately take the form of an illusion. Now, that's the clinical answer that they put on the tag as they take him away. But if you choose to think that the explanation has to do with an airborne Flying Dutchman, a ghost ship on a fog-enshrouded night on a flight that never ends, then you're doing your business in an old stand in the Twilight Zone."
Preview for Next Week's Story
Next week on The Twilight Zone, we use a camera like an X-ray and look under the skin of a neighborhood of men and women. It's a little experiment in human nature and behavior on the night that a CONELRAD broadcast shatters their composure with an announcement of terse terror: a bomb is coming. Most of our stories are a little far out. This one is very close in. You'll see what I mean next week when we present "The Shelter."