Grizzled, savvy, and no-nonsense, there's no one you'd rather call in a pressure situation than Captain Rex Kramer. A former combat veteran and military colleague of Ted Striker, Kramer has since moved on to become a commercial airline pilot. With his expertise and cool under fire, Kramer's ultimately able to talk Ted to the ground, giving our panicked hero instructions on how to land the plane.
Robert Stack was ZAZ's first choice for the role, which proved to be a masterful casting job (source). Given his long, established career of playing abrasive, blunt military men in dramatic films, Stack's role in Airplane! subverts the archetype of the battle-hardened tough guy. Of course, in playing the role perfectly straight, Stack pokes fun at this cliché character role out of which he'd made a career.