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A young boy survives a private airplane crash that kills his father leaving him alone to survive in the wilderness of Alaska using skills he learned from his father until or if rescued.
ACT ONE - The story unfolds when DAYID WADE is awakened to the sound of a sputtering engine. His father, DR. JAMES WADE, struggles to get the engine restarted. He can't and the airplane is gradually losing altitude. James fights to control the powerless plane, gliding along a valley and shouting Mayday into his mike. A mountain looms ahead. David tightens his seat belt and grips his armrests. The plane hits the treetops, sliding along the ground to come to rest among boulders. David frantically tries to get out; finally realizing his seatbelt is preventing it. He manages to get out, moves around the wreckage to his father's door. Pulls it open to find his father slumped in his seat and pinned by wreckage. As a doctor, James knows he is dying. He tells David he must survive for his mother's sake until rescued.
With his father dead, David is alone. Drawing from survival skills his father, a former Air Force Para- Rescue instructor had taught him. He must survive in the cold until rescued but doesn't know if the Mayday call was even heard. Using those skills he builds a shelter and forages for food by setting snares. Because of his carelessness with a campfire, fire destroys his original shelter and much of his supplies. He must rebuild a makeshift shelter. Running low on food he sets out to hunt with a rifle he had salvaged. Suddenly from the woods be hears branches rustling, popping and snapping. Frozen in fear, he isn’t sure if a bear is moving around until a Moose steps out grazing. He kills the Moose. Late that night a hungry Grizzly bear, scenting the meat, visits the campsite. David is awakened and his sudden movement causes the bear to attack. In panic he manages to fire a shot, chasing the bear off.
ACT TWO - At Elmendorf Air Base the Mayday was heard and COLONEL FRANK WILCOX, in command of the Para-Rescue crews is informed. He's a close friend of the Wade family having served with James for over twenty years. He orders a search. But the exact location is not known. The search is hampered by weather on a daily basis. After several failed attempts, finally the wreckage is spotted and SERGEANT JOHN BANKS is lowered to the ground where he finds James' dead body but no sign of David. With the body retrieved, he remains on the ground to search. At Elmendorf, Colonel Wilcox is determined to find David but no one really knows if he is alive or dead.
After days of expecting rescue and hearing airplanes passing overhead but their view obstructed by low clouds, David is despondent. He decides to make his way to smoke he had seen while hunting. It was in mountains across miles of frozen tundra. Banks, during his search, also sees the smoke rising and decides David must be making his way to it. Because search planes are beyond the range of his radio, Banks is unable to communicate with them. After ten days, Elmendorf questions even his whereabouts and survival. Unknown to Banks, wolves’ had devoured much of David’s meat supply. David struggles in heavy snow until exhausted, cold and hungry. He builds a makeshift igloo, crawls in and goes to sleep. Finally Banks finds David near death from the first stages of hypothermia.
Nursed back to health by warm food, hot drinks and heat provided by Banks, they set out together for the smoke they have both seen. After traversing many miles of frozen tundra in blinding snow, they reach the wooded mountains and find a cabin. It's occupied by VITTLES, an old back recluse trapper, who provides shelter and food. For days they are snowed in. Late one night David accidentally knocks over a kerosene lamp and the cabin goes up in flames. Now they must shelter in a dilapidated shed whose walls have cracks allowing wind to enter. They are forced to huddle for warmth under furs and a fire Vittles builds in an old bucket. Elmendorf's HQ is questioning the wisdom of continuing the search. Colonel Wilcox is adamant about continuing the search and crews are dispatched on ground to search the tundra. They find no sign of either Banks or David and are extracted when another storm bits.
ACT THREE - After seventeen days of searching, GENERAL MOORES meets with Colonel Wilcox to inform him HQ has cancelled further searches. It's too costly and they believe both David and Banks have perished. Wilcox still believes both are alive but must follow orders. He is faced with the unpleasant task of informing CATHY WADE, David’s mother, that now both her husband and son have perished. That same night David is attacked by a badger and is injured. The threat of rabies concerns Banks and Vittles. But there is no treatment available to them.
The next morning, day eighteen, Colonel Wilcox is informed a bush pilot had heard an emergency beeper, communicated with Banks until his radio died, and fixed location coordinates. The weather finally allows a search and HQ grants a final mission. It is successful. However, a mechanical problem on the rescue helicopter prevents extraction until the next day. Day nineteen dawns with more snow falling but, by mid- day, it clears enough to allow extraction of all three - Banks, David and Vittles.
Day twenty finds David reunited with his mother and sister in the hospital. Doctors have concluded that no chance of rabies exists and he is free to go home. Weeks later at an award ceremony, Banks receives a promotion and medals. The rescue crew also receives medals. Because of his mastery of survival skills, Banks presents a maroon beret to David, symbolic of a successful Para-Rescue graduate.