Braniff International Airways ends its Concorde service. Inaugurated in January 1979, it involved an interchange service allowing the Concorde to operate over the United States by having Air France and British Airways crews fly the aircraft from Europe to Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia outside Washington, D.C, where the aircraft were temporarily leased and re-registered to Braniff and flown by Braniff crews as Braniff aircraft to Dallas-Fort Worth Regional Airport. The process was reversed on the return trip, with Braniff crews flying the planes as Braniff aircraft to Washington Dulles, where they were "sold" back and re-registered to Air France and British Airways before being flown back to Europe by French and British crews. Braniff finds that its Concordes generally carry only 15 passengers per trip (about 20 percent of capacity) on the Dallas-Washington route, in sharp contrast to its Boeing 727s, which are full on the same route, and thus decides to discontinue its Concorde operations. Braniff is the only American airline ever to operate the Concorde.
August 19 – A fire breaks out in the aft cargo compartment of Saudia Flight 163, a Lockheed L-1011-200 TriStar, a few minutes after takeoff from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The plane returns to the airport and makes a safe emergency landing, but instead of ordering an immediate emergency evacuation, the flight crew taxis onto a taxiway before stopping. Engine shutdown takes another 3 minutes 15 seconds, by which time all or most of the passengers and crew apparently have been overcome by smoke and fire. By the time airport emergency personnel get one of the plane 's doors open 23 minutes after engine shutdown, all 301 people on board have died. It remains the second-deadliest single-aircraft accident in history, the deadliest in Saudi Arabian history, and the deadliest involving an L-1011.
The Iran-Iraq War begins. The Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force has about 100,000 men and 447 combat aircraft, while the Iranian Army Aviation Corps has about 70 light reconnaissance and support planes and over 200 armed helicopters; only 50-to-60 percent of Iranian fixed-wing aircraft, 18-to-50 percent of its combat aircraft, and 60 percent of its helicopters are operational. The Iraqi Air Force has about 38,000 men, of which about 10,000 are air defense personnel, and 332 combat aircraft, and the Iraqi Army Air Corps has about 70 armed helicopters.
September 23–24 – Iraqi aircraft attack Iranian airfields at Tabriz (twice), Dezful (twice), Shahroki, Kermanshah, Al-Ahwaz, and Sanandaj, but again make little impact on Iranian air capabilities. Iranian aircraft fly 100 sorties on September 23 despite the attacks, prompting Iraq ro disperse many of its aircraft into other Arab countries for the next week to ten days.
September 24 – The Iraqi Air Force attacks Iran 's oil terminal at Kharg Island for the first time.
November 25 – U.S. Navy helicopters join U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army units in providing aid to victims of an earthquake at Avellino, Italy, which had killed 3,000 and left many people homeless two days earlier.
Thanks to purges of officers since the February 1979 Iranian Revolution and the Western embargo on spare parts shipments to Iran, by late 1980 the operational level of the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force drops below 100 aircraft and its sustained sortie rate to drop to one per day. This will not change through the end of the Iran-Iraq War in 1988. The Iranian Army helicopter force, able to fly 60 to 70 percent of its helicopters, suffers from similar problems.