The Concorde ... Airport '79

The Concorde ... Airport '79 is a 1979 American air disaster film (in the UK, it was released a year later as Airport '80: The Concorde) and the fourth and final installment of the Airport franchise. Poorly reviewed by critics, the film also flopped at the box office. Produced on a then high budget of $14 million, it earned a little over $13 million,[2] thus ending the enormous financial success of the Airport films.

The Concorde ... Airport '79
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDavid Lowell Rich
Produced byJennings Lang
Screenplay byEric Roth
Story byJennings Lang
StarringAlain Delon
Susan Blakely
Robert Wagner
George Kennedy
Music byLalo Schifrin
CinematographyPhilip H. Lathrop
Edited byDorothy Spencer
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
August 3, 1979[1]
Running time
113 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$14 million
Box office$13 million[2][3]

The film was directed by David Lowell Rich.[4] The ensemble cast includes George Kennedy, who appeared in all four films from the Airport series, Susan Blakely, Alain Delon and Robert Wagner in main roles. Mercedes McCambridge and Martha Raye have cameos.


Kevin Harrison (Robert Wagner), a corrupt arms dealer, attempts to destroy an American-owned Concorde on its maiden flight after one of the passengers, reporter Maggie Whelan (Susan Blakely), learns of his weapons sales to communist countries during the Cold War.

The Concorde takes off from Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris. Captain Paul Metrand (Alain Delon) makes conversation with Isabelle (Sylvia Kristel), the purser. They land at Dulles Airport outside Washington, D.C.

Maggie reports on the "Goodwill" flight on the Concorde the following day, which leads to a story of Harrison and his Buzzard surface-to-air missile project. A man named Carl Parker (Macon McCalman) shows up with a claim about documentation of illegal arms deals, but is shot before a passerby triggers a fire alarm, scaring the assailant away.

Maggie is told by Harrison someone is framing him. He sends Maggie off in a limo, then plots to have the Concorde's departure delayed and the drone test reprogrammed.

Capt. Joe Patroni (George Kennedy) joins Metrand aboard the Concorde, creating some doubt as to which pilot is in command. They are joined by Peter O'Neill (David Warner), the 2nd officer and flight engineer, who is living with a controlling girlfriend.

Harrison surprises Maggie at the airline check-in desk to see her off. He asks if the documents showed up, but they have not. As he is walking away, Parker's wife (Kathleen Maguire) delivers the documents to Maggie as she steps into the mobile lounge. She looks them over and realizes that Harrison lied to her.

The Concorde takes off for Paris. Unbeknownst to the flight crew, an off-course surface-to-air missile is headed straight for them. At his company headquarters, Harrison tells his controllers to alert the government. The USAF scrambles F-15 fighter jets to intercept the missile just as it locks onto the Concorde. After several evasive maneuvers by the passenger plane, an F-15 shoots down the missile before it collides with the Concorde.

As the Concorde is approaching the European coastline, an F-4 Phantom II sent by Harrison engages the Concorde as French Air Force Mirages scramble to help. The Concorde manages to evade the F-4's missiles, but the explosion of one of them damages the plane's hydraulic system. The Mirages shoot down the F-4 and the Concorde continues to Paris, although to Le Bourget airport instead of Charles de Gaulle. The plane reaches the French coastline, landing with a damaged hydraulic system and just barely stopping at the last safety net. Metrand and Isabelle invite Patroni to dinner.

Harrison promises Maggie to go public with the documents but attempts to bribe her into "polishing" his statement. After being paid by Harrison, a mechanic, Froelich (Jon Cedar), places a device in the Concorde's cargo door control unit, timed to open during flight.

As the passengers board, a well-dressed woman (played by Charo) attempts to smuggle a dog aboard. She is caught by an alert Isabelle and leaves. Froelich is in line at the security checkpoint when some of his money falls out of his pant leg. The X-ray technician attempts to return it, but Froelich pretends not to hear and runs off panicked. On the runway, where the Concorde is taking off, the aircraft's exhaust kills Froelich and scatters the money he received from Harrison.

The aircraft is en route to Moscow when the automatic device opens the cargo door. Metrand sees the carpet tear down the middle of the aisle, signifying the fuselage is under tremendous stress and the aircraft is about to break apart. The cargo door is ripped off, extensively damaging the aircraft and ripping a segment of the floor as it spirals toward the ground. The airline founder's seat lodges in the hole, acting as a plug. The pilots attempt to fly to Innsbruck, Austria, for an emergency landing, but realize they are losing too much fuel and do not have enough to make it there. Metrand realizes they are flying towards a ski area he knows in the Alps; they could make a belly landing on a mountain-side.

The aircraft approaches the landing site while the ski patrol marks a runway. It lands successfully. While passengers are being rescued, Maggie gives a report of the accident to a news reporter and mentions a major story she is about to release. Harrison is seeing the newscast in his private plane and commits suicide. At the crash site, the last of the crew leaves the Concorde shortly before the fuselage caves in and explodes from the leaking fuel.



It took producer Jennings Lang a number of years to get permission from Air France to use the Concorde.[5] Parts of the film were also shot in Alta, Utah.[6]


The film was the recipient of mostly negative reviews by critics upon its release, and years later holds an approval rating of 14% on the film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes based on seven reviews.[7]

Vincent Canby of The New York Times wrote, "'The Concorde — Airport '79' is — how should I put it? — not the best of the series, but to say that it's the worst is to convey the wrong impression. In this case, worst is best."[8] Variety referred to it as an "unintentional comedy".[9] Stu Goldstein BoxOffice graded the film as "Poor" and called it "so silly it's actually entertaining."[10] David Ansen of Newsweek wrote, "You have to respect a movie so single-mindedly dedicated to High Silliness. The advantage of its blithe disregard for plausibility is a plot that zips along at such breakneck pace that the audience is too busy counting the holes in the Concorde to question the holes in the plot."[11] Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film one star out of four and called the story "ludicrous."[12] Sheila Benson of the Los Angeles Times wrote, "The disaster they face is as contrived as the characters. You never believe for a second that these passengers are in any danger, beyond getting airsick or mussing their hair."[13] Gary Arnold of The Washington Post called the film "nearly as funny as 'The Big Bus,' albeit unwittingly."[14]

Film critic Roger Ebert highlighted the film in his book I Hated, Hated, Hated This Movie, deriding the science in the scene where Patroni fires a flare gun out of the cockpit window.[15]

It is also listed in Golden Raspberry Award founder John Wilson's book The Official Razzie Movie Guide as one of The 100 Most Enjoyably Bad Movies Ever Made.[16]

Aircraft history

The Concorde aircraft used in the film first flew on January 31, 1975, and was registered as F-WTSC to the Aérospatiale aircraft company. It would be re-registered by Aérospatiale as F-BTSC and leased to Air France in 1976. In 1989, this Concorde carried Pope John Paul II.[17] On July 25, 2000, F-BTSC, as Air France Flight 4590, crashed in the small French town of Gonesse, killing all 109 passengers and crew on board, as well as four on the ground. At the time of the accident, F-BTSC had logged 11,989 hours and 4,873 cycles.[18]

Home media

The film was first released on videocassette by MCA Home Video in the 1980s in North America. In 2004, a Region One (U.S. and Canada) DVD release was issued by Universal for The Concorde: Airport '79 as part of an Airport Terminal Pack collection that included all four films in the Airport series. In Japan, the film was released on laserdisc as Airport '80: The Concorde on at least two occasions (1987 and 1999). A single disc was issued, followed by an inclusion in a box set containing all four Airport movies. The Japanese laserdisc was full frame (4x3) and included Japanese subtitles. Though disc labels and jacket include the name Airport '80: The Concorde, the actual on-screen credit was the same as seen in North America and read, The Concorde: Airport '79.

Television premiere

For the film's May 1982 network television premiere on ABC, additional footage was added to expand the film's running time so it could be shown in a three-hour time slot.[19] A majority of the new footage consisted of scenes involving members of various government agencies investigating the background to Kevin Harrison. Actors playing investigators included Jose Ferrer, J.D. Cannon, Alan Fudge, and Ben Piazza. New scenes involving George Kennedy's family life and the death of his wife were also shot. Some deleted footage from the theatrical version was also reinstated into the television version. In addition, the cameo by Charo and scenes involving drug use by the Boise character were deleted, and some profanity was dubbed over. Despite the poor box office returns and the later parody Airplane! having put an end to the airplane disaster series, this TV version of the film came in tenth place in that week’s ratings with 18.3 million viewers and a 31 share of the viewing audience. This footage however has never been officially released on home video on any format.

See also


  1. "The Concorde...Airport '79 - Details". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. American Film Institute. Retrieved December 21, 2018.
  2. Airport - Box Office History
  3. Box office information for film at Box Office Story
  4. "The Concorde ... Airport '79". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved March 1, 2016.
  5. Star Strokes for Concorde Mann, Roderick. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 28 Dec 1978: f12.
  6. D'Arc, James V. (2010). When Hollywood came to town: a history of moviemaking in Utah (1st ed.). Layton, Utah: Gibbs Smith. ISBN 9781423605874.
  7. The Concorde... Airport '79. Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved December 21, 2018.
  8. Canby, Vincent (September 9, 1979). "One Way to Conquer the Fear of Flying". The New York Times. D25.
  9. Variety Staff (1978-12-31). "Review: "The Concorde – Airport '79"". Variety. Retrieved 2013-07-11.
  10. Goldstein, Stu (August 20, 1979). "Feature Reviews: The Concorde—Airport '79". BoxOffice. 18.
  11. Ansen, David (August 13, 1979). "Supersonic Silliness". Newsweek. 75.
  12. Siskel, Gene (September 3, 1979). "Latest (ho-hum) version of 'Airport' doesn't get off the ground". Chicago Tribune. Section 3, p. 7.
  13. Benson, Sheila (August 3, 1979). "Airport '79: The High and the Flighty". Los Angeles Times. Part IV, p. 22.
  14. Arnold, Gary (September 14, 1979). "Pearl of Many Perils". The Washington Post. D7.
  15. Ebert, Roger (2005). I Hated, Hated, Hated This Movie. Andrews McMeel Publishing. ISBN 0-7407-0672-1.
  16. Wilson, John (2005). The Official Razzie Movie Guide: Enjoying the Best of Hollywood's Worst. Grand Central Publishing. ISBN 0-446-69334-0.
  17. The Concorde SST Web Site: History of the aircraft that would become Air France Flight 4590
  18. Aviation Safety Network: Description of the accident involving F-BTSC (Air France Flight 4590)
  19. "On the Celluloid Chopping Block: THE CONCORDE...AIRPORT '79 (1979)". Video Junkie. Retrieved June 24, 2013.
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