1969: After buzzing a semi-driver, radio eye-in-the-sky Billy Covington(Robert Downey, Jr.) gets stripped of his pilots license. No sooner does this happen than he gets a job offer from Air America, a covert airlift organization operating out of Laos. Once there, he finds the company full of lunatics, with perhaps the looniest being Gene Ryack (Mel Gibson), a self-proclaimed Buddhist who runs guns on the side. He also finds out the organization is secretly a drug-smuggling operation, run by Major Lemond(Ken Jenkins) and General Soong(Burt Kwouk).Not to be confused with Air America Radio.
Big Damn Heroes: Gene, Billy, and Babo come to rescue Corrine from Soong's troops. When they find out a number of villagers also need saving, Gene dumps his whole stash of weapons(that he was planning to sell for his retirement) to make room for them, and then blows the weapons up so Soong's men can't use them.
Cool Plane: Averted and played straight at the same time. Averted in that none of the planes or helicopters are even remotely sleek or cool looking, played straight in that those aircraft are extremely good at what they're used for and can take a lot of punishment before going down.
Danger Deadpan: The pilots are also surprisingly calm, even when being shot at.
Gene: Well, Rob, if he's not dead, he's very, very calm.
Granola Girl: Corrine, the Peace Corps volunteer who's totally savvy to Lemond and Soong's activities.
Gray and Grey Morality: There are definitely good guys and bad guys, but none of the good guys are pure white-hats, not even Billy and Corinne, who probably come closest, and none of the villains are pure black-hats, not even Major Lemond and General Soong. Yes, granted, Soong, Lemond, and Rob are drug runners, but there is no evidence that Lemond and Diehl are enriching themselves, and even Gene, who is more or less neutral for most of the film, points out that it is impossible to win a war in Southeast Asia without controlling the opiate trade, so Lemond and Diehl, and even Soong, are just doing what is necessary for the war effort. Ryack himself is a gun runner, and it is made clear that pretty much all the pilots are running illegal scams on the side. Corinne, again, might seem closest to being a pure white-hat, but she's dating Rob, one of the villains. Senator Davenport turns out to be a good guy at the end, but he's willing to look the other way at Gen. Soong's rather dodgy "recruitment" techniques. So all in all, no one in the film really seems all good or all evil.