Airplane! pilot Peter Graves dies aged 83

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Peter Graves, who starred in the 1960s TV show Mission: Impossible and the Airplane! movies, has died in Los Angeles on Sunday, four days before his 84th birthday.

A spokesman said the actor died of an apparent heart attack at his home in the suburb of Pacific Palisades after returning home from a family brunch to celebrate his upcoming birthday.

Graves gained widespread recognition in 1967, when he took the lead role in the TV spy drama Mission: Impossible. He played Jim Phelps, who would receive his team's next instructions on a tape that would self-destruct in a puff of smoke.

The actor is perhaps better known to modern audiences for his role in the 1980 spoof Airplane! in which he played the not-so-subtle paedophile pilot of a seemingly doomed jet. The actor said he had wanted to turn down the role, but was talked into it after being convinced by the filmmakers that his dry, deadpan delivery was exactly what was needed to make the spoof work.