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When strict, demanding Colonel Cornelius Stockton is transferred to special duty at the Trans-World Air Line School of Aeronautics in Glendale, California, he maneuvers to have pilot W. R. "Stag" Cahill, a former Army Air Force captain, assigned as his assistant. To the colonel's dismay, his "wild" son Ken enrolls secretly in the school and soon becomes Stag's star student. In spite of the colonel's gruelling training schedule, Ken develops a friendly professional rivalry with Stag and also competes with him for Meg Lawrence, the cousin of a fellow pilot, "Fergie" Ferguson. After a night out with Meg, Ken is ordered by his father to perform a high-altitude test flight with Stag and, exhausted, faints in the thin air. Although Stag regains control of the plane in time to save the flight, he is reprimanded by the colonel for protecting his "cowardly" son. Unafraid, Stag defends Ken and tells Stockton that his overly zealous work schedules are ruining the pilots. Just as Stockton fires Stag and his son for insubordination, he receives a telephone call that two of his pilots have died during a test flight. Shamed, the colonel rehires Stag and Ken, who then becomes engaged to Meg. When Ken is assigned to join Stag and Fergie on a dangerous arctic mapping flight, however, a fearful Meg calls off the engagement. Before the flight, Stag tells Meg that if she marries him, he will stop flying after the arctic trip, and she weds him in a civil ceremony. As he flies north with Ken and Fergie, Stag announces his marriage to Ken, who grows morose with jealousy. Because of their poor maps, the pilots are forced to make an emergency landing in the arctic mountains, and the airplane crashes on takeoff. Ken and Stag carry an injured Fergie through a blizzard toward the coast, but after several slow days, Fergie sacrifices his life to the cold to save his friends. Near death, Stag collapses in the snow and is left behind by a still resentful Ken. Before long, however, Ken remembers the sacrifices that Stag made for him and returns to save him. Eventually, Ken and Stag locate a village, and when they arrive back in Glendale, they are heralded as aviation heroes. Stag, seeing that Meg still loves Ken, insists that their marriage be annulled, and Meg gracefully accepts Stag's final sacrifice.