A red, white, and blue hot-air balloon flies over the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC. It has a banner on it that reads Stop the Concorde.

You really have to watch out for those activists from “Airpeace.”

The Concorde… Airport ’79 (1979)

🧑🏻‍✈️ A passenger flight on the famous Concorde has to deal with guided missiles, French fighter jets, and Charo.

Film Poster
At twice the speed of sound, can the Concorde evade attack?





Movie info from


A trio of people are setting up their hot air balloon in Washington, DC as a Concorde super-sonic passenger jet approaches Dulles airport. As the balloon lifts off, we see it sports a huge banner: “Stop the Concorde.”

The Dulles tower notices the balloon. The flight crew notices as well: “What’s that over the runway?” they radio the tower. But the balloon is too close! The Concorde has to make a sharp turn and climb hard to avoid crashing into these activists from “Airpeace,” an activist organization dedicated to interfering with air travel.

Passenger jets are not known for their maneuverability, but really. The tower doesn’t notice an air balloon overhead? Maybe because it isn’t — the balloon is flying near the Lincoln Memorial, which puts it much closer to National Airport than Dulles.

If these things are going to bother you, skip The Concorde… Airport ’79. Later the Concorde will do a full mid-air loop so Captain Joe Patroni (George Kennedy) can fire a flare gun out of the cockpit window at an approaching heat-seeking missile.

Exterior shot of the Concorde, we see Patroni’s hand aiming a flare-gun. The plane is upside-down

The movie seems really confused about whether or not they are rolling or looping at this point, but looping is the only way you could be upside down and facing the missiles coming at you from behind.

The Concorde… Airport ’79 is the fourth in a series of very successful flight-related disaster movies. The franchise began in 1970 with Airport. That first movie won an Academy Award and was nominated for nine others. This movie had to make all of its profit internationally and was the last movie in the series, although it’s an open question whether it was the franchise or the disaster movie in general that was played out by then.

I am watching the franchise backwards as a sort of experiment. My expectation is that this will make each movie watching experience gradually better; Concorde ’79 sets a pretty low bar. It does have the advantage of being absolutely ludicrous, however, and I am now worried that one of the middle films will just be mediocre, dull, and largely unmemorable.

Eddie Albert pokes his head into the cockpit

“I just want to tell you ‘Good Luck.’ We’re all counting on you.”

Airport ’79, like all of the other Airport movies before it, has an all-star cast, although many of the names will probably be unfamiliar viewers born after 1990.

Robert Wagner is the evil weapons manufacturer Kevin Harrison. Harrison is selling weapons he’s developing for the US military to communist countries, which was looked down on in 1979. His girlfriend, news anchor Maggie Whelan (Susan Blakely) has all of the evidence on board the Concorde, but she’s foolishly confronted Kevin about his illegal and arguably treasonous sales, which is why Harrison is trying to get the Concorde shot down. For some reason, Maggie never calls either her news editor or the FBI about this evidence, preferring instead to confront Harrison again, and again, and again…

Maggie confronts Wagner about arms sales; Wagner is getting weepy.

Movies often have a character confront the evil mastermind, which is bizarre enough, but Maggie keeps giving Kevin plenty of opportunities to shut her up.

George Kennedy I have already mentioned; he’s the only actor to have starred in all four of the _Airport_s. French film star and sex symbol Alain Delon is Captain Paul Metrand, and David Warner is navigator Peter O’Neil. The Concorde aircraft was a joint project between a British and French companies and was operated by Air France, but the movie was American… so it makes sense to have three different nationalities in the cockpit.

Metrand’s love interest is flight attendant Isabelle, played by Sylvia Kristel, known best as Emmanuelle. They have an off-and-on relationship because Metrand is a notorious horn-dog and Isabelle can’t bring herself to tell him to take a hike. Is it because he’s so handsome and charming? Or is it because he outranks her and it would be disastrous to her career not to sleep with him occasionally? Strangely, the movie never raises the second question.

Petroni doesn’t precisely have a love interest. He does, however, have a sex interest that would probably get him in a great deal of trouble now. He loves to brag about other people’s sex lives, makes off-color jokes and comments constantly. “They don’t call it the ‘cockpit’ for nothing, honey,” Captain Petroni says to Isabelle. But we know he’s a good guy underneath. He gets misty when he talks about his son in college and his dead wife.

George Kennedy as pilot Petroni, saying they don’t call it the cockpit for nothing, honey

Oh, you.

Concorde is at its best when the plane does multiple barrel rolls and other acrobatics in several dogfights. The deliberately comic moments fall terribly flat. Martha “Big Mouth” Raye, she of the 1980s Polident commercials, is constantly running to the toilet. Jimmy Walker, “J.J.” on Good Times, smokes joints in the toilet and refuses to put his saxophone away. Charo tries to smuggle her micro-dog on board.

The movie has a couple of fairly creepy echoes. Robert Wagner’s twice-ex-wife Natalie Wood died in 1981 under mysterious circumstances, and Wagner remains a suspect. The actual Concorde used in this movie crashed in 2000, killing all passengers. As a result, the entire fleet was grounded for a year and a half, and all remaining Concordes were retired from service in 2003.

Jimmy Walker in the restroom, holding his sax and smoking a joint.

Jimmy Walker demonstrates the best way to watch this movie — with pot, and in the restroom out of sight of the screen.

Grounding the movie’s Concorde as a result of multiple attacks on the plane was apparently never considered; our plot has the plane en route from Washington to Moscow on a “Goodwill” tour for the (actually boycotted) 1980 Olympics. There’s a stopover in France, where the aircraft’s damage from heat-seeking missiles is repaired, and then it’s in the air the very next day with the same flight crew and most of the same passengers. Baffling.

The movie certainly has its ups and downs, and is only ever unintentionally funny. But you can’t say it doesn’t have a heart. The heart is packed in ice, being flown to a young child in desperate need of a heart transplant.