This was the only movie of the "Airport" film franchise that did not have a real-life disaster happen to an aircraft used in the filming. The 707 used in filming Airport (1970) crashed in Brazil in 1989. The Beachcraft Baron that played the one that collided with the 747 in Airport 1975 (1974) collided with another private prop plane mid-air in 1989. The Concorde used in The Concorde...Airport '79 (1979) crashed outside of Paris in 2000, killing all one hundred seven people on-board and four people on the ground, leading to the end of the Concorde program.
Joan Crawford was approached to play the role of Emily Livingston, but declined, later saying, "I wanted Joel McCrea to play opposite me, and anyway, they actually asked me to fly out there with only one week's notice. Why, that is hardly enough time for make-up tests or rehearsals, and when I asked about costume fittings, they said they wanted me to wear my own clothes."
When Joan Crawford declined to play Emily Livingston, Olivia de Havilland stepped in and played the part instead. Also, in 1964, Crawford had been replaced by de Havilland in Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964), after Joan became ill, and in 1962, when Crawford had accepted the role in Lady in a Cage (1964), and then later withdrew because the production stalled, her part was re-cast with de Havilland.
The Magnavox Magnavision VLP optical videodisc player shown in this movie was Lew Wasserman's personal player, and was borrowed from his office for the day of shooting. It was a hand-built pre-production model that was given the "7000" model number. The entire top of the player opens instead of just a small "lid" portion and the disc area, and has a clear window so you can see the disc spinning. For the final player release (model 8000), the lid was shrunk to only the disc area and the transparent window was eliminated. The player used in this movie could not play CLV Extended Play discs, as the CLV format had not yet been finalized. The single-sided disc placed on the player contained the recording of James Stewart seen in this movie, MCA Disco-Vision pressed the one-off disc just for this movie. The packaging for the disc is a so-called "Nautilus Box" inside of a standard cardboard box used to transport MCA Records Nickel-plated LP stampers. Monica Lewis used the player incorrectly. She doesn't shut the lid completely, and presses one of the "audio" buttons instead of the "Play Forward" button.
As was a practice at Universal Pictures for a brief period during the mid 1970s, a television version of the movie was made with a lot more footage included. This was also done for Universal's Earthquake (1974) and Two-Minute Warning (1976).
Director Jerry Jameson directed a similar sunken-vehicle high-concept movie, Raise the Titanic (1980). Instead of raising a sunken 747 airplane from underwater, it was the R.M.S. Titanic. This movie was box-office hit, and Raise the Titanic (1980) was a huge box-office flop.
Producer William Frye tried to lure Irene Dunne out of retirement to play Emily Livingston by offering her a new Rolls-Royce every year for the next ten years. Dunne loved the script but declined because, "I don't like Rolls-Royces."
The name of the main U.S. Navy rescue ship was the U.S.S. Cayuga (LST-1186) The vessel portrayed itself in the movie. The other rescue ship was the destroyer U.S.S. Agerholm (DD-826) along with a flotilla of other vessels.
The name of the private aircraft company was the "Stevens Corporation". The make and model of the airplane was a jumbo jet Boeing 747-100. The call name for its private flight was "Stevens' Flight 23", the flight's call sign being "Two-Three Sierra".
After the disastrous response to his previous film Alex And The Gypsy, Jack Lemmon felt he might never work again and instructed his agent to accept the next high paying gig he was offered, which was this movie. He subsequently said it was a terrible decision.
At the 43rd Annual Academy Awards for movies released in 1970, Lee Grant was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for "The Landlord." She was bested for the award by Helen Hayes for her role in the original "Airport." Among the other nominees that year were Hayes's "Airport" co-star Maureen Stapleton, and Karen Black who would go on to star in "Airport 1975."
While this film is entitled Airport '77, it has nothing whatsoever to do with airports. The original film, Airport (1970) was all about airport operations when dealing with a crisis in the air. The first sequel, Airport 1975 (1974), involved a great deal of flight communications, but nothing about operations. The third and final sequel, The Concorde... Airport '79 (1979), has nothing to do with airports other than sabotage by a ground crewman, a parked plane, and takeoffs and landings.
One of the rescue craft is identified as a "LST". This stands for Landing Ship, Tank, which is a form of boat that is designed to carry personnel and vehicles during a beach landing. Developed during World War II, they were manufactured to a variety of specifications, with the largest being able to carry the weight of an armored tank. While the craft in the film is obviously too small for a tank, it falls into the same category, hence the designation LST.