A film about the CIA’s clandestine air transport firm engaging in illegal drug-running might not sound like traditional Hollywood fare — and, indeed, Air America courted controversy. But it did end up getting made, as we found out in an exclusive interview with the scriptwriter

Mel Gibson as Gene Ryack, fictional Air America pilot and illicit arms trader, with one of the airworthy Royal Thai Air Force C-123Ks.

Apart from a few early examples, American cinema was generally reluctant to tackle the raw nerves of the USA’s Vietnam War defeat in the immediate years after the final withdrawal from Saigon in April 1975. It wasn’t until the early to mid-1980s, largely fuelled by the new teenage home video market, that the Vietnam movie came into being as a vehicle for the ever-popular highaction genre.

Circulating in the literary world during this period was a 1978 nonfiction book entitled Air America, by English writer and journalist Christopher Robbins. It chronicled the real-life history, exploits and adventurous lifestyles of the pilots involved with the CIA-run air transport company Air America in the Far East during the Vietnam conflict. The concept of a film on this subject seemed like a lucrative opportunity for a Hollywood forever seeking the next big thing.

Become a Premium Member to Read More

This is a premium article and requires an active Key.Aero subscription to view.

I’m an existing member, sign me in!

I don’t have a subscription…

Enjoy the following subscriber only benefits:

  • Unlimited access to all KeyAero content
  • Exclusive in-depth articles and analysis, videos, quizzes added daily
  • A fully searchable archive – boasting hundreds of thousands of pieces of quality aviation content
  • Access to read all our leading aviation magazines online - meaning you can enjoy the likes of FlyPast, Aeroplane Monthly, AirForces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, Aviation News, Airports of the World, PC Pilot and Airliner World - as soon as they leave the editor’s desk.
  • Access on any device- anywhere, anytime
  • Choose from our offers below