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In 1932, Sam Doyle, a decorated World War I pilot, is a successful commercial pilot and a single parent to his ten-year-old son Danny. One night, after drinking too much, Doyle crashes his plane, killing his co-pilot, William Thompson. Remorseful, Doyle tries to make amends by giving all his money to the dead pilot's wife and young daughter Susie. To conceal his charity, Doyle arranges for Joe Sanford, a legal guardian, to administer the fund. When Doyle offers no defense at his hearing of the Civil Aeronautics Board, his pilot's license is permanently revoked. The dead pilot's brother, Lt. John Thompson, believes Doyle's sentence is too lenient, however, and vows revenge. Unable to fly again, Doyle tries to find other employment, but his name and unfavorable publicity work against him. When Danny becomes involved in frequent fights while trying to defend his father's name, Doyle, feeling that he is a liability to the boy, decides to go away. After arranging for Sanford to care for Danny, Doyle sails for South America and in Dutch Guiana, finds a job at a wildcat airline where the other pilots are outcasts like himself. As the years pass, Doyle continues to drown his troubles in drink, but regularly sends money and letters to his son, describing his success with the South American airline. Using the name Danny White, the boy decides to attend aviation school and become a pilot like his father. His flight examiner is John Thompson, now a major. When Danny falls in love and proposes to Thompson's niece Susie, the major approves. It is not until Doyle comes to attend Danny's graduation that the boy learns that Susie is the daughter of the man killed in his father's plane crash. On the eve of his first solo flight, Danny tells Susie and her uncle the truth. The next day, Thompson makes the test flight so difficult that Danny thinks he has failed. When Doyle leaves for Dutch Guiana, Danny follows, unaware that Thompson has passed him and that Susie is still devoted to him. After Danny arrives in Dutch Guiana, Doyle's friends try to maintain the illusion that his father is a success. The ruse works until Doyle's boss, Larsen, returns and reveals the truth. Rather than humiliate his father, Danny decides to return home and join the Army Air Corps, where he rises to the rank of lieutenant. After Father Carlos, a priest on the island, convinces Sam that the time has come to redeem himself, Doyle returns to the States and enlists as a private in the Army. After securing a transfer to the field where Danny is stationed, Doyle learns that Thompson, who is in charge, has assigned Danny to test a new interceptor plane. Upon discovering that the aircraft has a faulty tail design, Doyle pleads with Thompson to cancel the flight, but Danny insists on carrying out the assignment. On the day of the test flight, Doyle knocks out his son and flies the plane himself. While Danny, Susie and Thompson listen to a radio in the control room, Doyle puts the aircraft into a power dive. Doyle is killed when the plane plunges to earth, but his radio reports reveal facts which will help the designers to build safer planes. Doyle's heroism in the face of death earns him back his honor and assures the happiness of his son.