Air America is a 1990 American action comedy film directed by Roger Spottiswoode, starring Mel Gibson and Robert Downey Jr. as Air America pilots, during the Vietnam War, flying missions in Laos. When the protagonists discover their aircraft are being used by other government agents to smuggle heroin, they must avoid being framed as the drug-smugglers.
The plot of Air America is adapted from Christopher Robbins' 1979 non-fiction book, chronicling the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency financed airline during the Vietnam War to transport weapons and supplies in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam in the 1960s, subsequent to the North Vietnamese invasion of Laos.
The publicity for the film, advertised as a light-hearted buddy movie, implied a tone that differs greatly with the actual film's tone, which includes such serious themes as an anti-war message, focus on the opium trade, and a negative portrayal of Royal Laotian General Vang Pao (played by actor Burt Kwouk as "General Lu Soong").
In late 1969, Billy Covington (Robert Downey Jr.) works as a helicopter traffic pilot for a Los Angeles radio station, but after breaking several safety regulations on the job, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration suspends his pilot's license. His piloting skills, bravery and disregard for the law are noticed by a mysterious government agent, who tells Billy that he can get his license back if he accepts a job in Laos, working for a "strictly civilian" company called Air America. The stranger indicates the air mission in Laos is "Top Secret" and the fact that American soldiers are stationed in Laos is a cover-up.