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In 1932 novice pilot Tonie Carter flies her first solo flight and almost collides with Randy Britton, an acclaimed pilot who thinks that women belong on the ground and not in the air. To apologize to Randy for her near miss, Tonie goes to find him at the back room of Johnny Salvini's New York nightclub, where the pilots congregate. The room is restricted to male pilots, and to gain admittance, Tonie lies that she has a date to meet Randy there. Intrigued, Randy invites her to dinner, and after flying her to Delaware to dine on clams, he suggests they spend the week together while the wing on his plane is being repaired. At first reluctant, Tonie agrees to fly to Virginia Beach with Randy and they spend the night together. The next morning, Randy presents Tonie with a cigarette case featuring a map of the world with a gem marking the city of Virginia Beach. Soon after Randy is notified that his wing is fixed, he takes off for a test flight to California and South America. Tonie, who has fallen in love with Randy, watches in tears as his plane disappears into the distance, leaving her alone on the beach. Tonie then goes back to New York to work for her flying teacher, airplane designer Paul Turner. Two years later, Randy returns from South America and asks Paul about Tonie's whereabouts, but Paul claims ignorance. After Randy leaves, Paul tells Tonie of the visit and asks her to fly his prototype in an upcoming New York-Los Angeles race. Because the prize money would provide Paul with the funds that he needs to begin production on the aircraft, Tonie determines to win the race and flies the aircraft to an altitude of 20,000 feet to catch a tail wind. Passing out from lack of oxygen, Tonie regains consciousness as her plane begins to plummet. She manages to level out the craft, but strays from her course and, as a result, finishes last in the race. After Tonie lands in Los Angeles, Randy tries to renew their romance. Although she still carries Randy's cigarette case, Tonie refuses his offer to fly to San Francisco and instead determines to break the world's record by flying to New York that night in less than twelve hours. Tonie takes off without notifying anyone, and as Randy and Paul argue over her, word comes that she has landed in New York and broken the record. Tonie's feat brings her fame and Paul fortune. The night that Johnny mounts a coathook with Tonie's name on it on his clubroom wall, Paul, now a successful plane manufacturer, asks Tonie to marry him and retire from flying. Tonie accepts, but when she sees Randy's name plate next to hers, she tells Paul that she wants to fly around the world solo before they marry. As Tonie begins her journey, Randy follows her progress from Washington, D.C., where he has gone to report sighting a submarine base while flying over the Japanese islands. Because planes are forbidden to fly over the islands, Admiral Graves fears that the Japanese are covertly arming themselves. Tonie's flight gives the admiral an idea on how to send planes over the islands, and he cables her to discontinue her trip and come to Washington to discuss a secret government mission. Tonie receives the admiral's cable when she lands in Honolulu, and after deliberately crashing her plane on the runway, she proceeds to Washington. There, the admiral tells Tonie that the safety of the country depends on her mission and asks her to resume her solo flight and issue a distress call as she nears the Japanese islands. After issuing the distress call, the admiral instructs Tonie to land her craft on the tiny coral reef of Gull Island, where she and her navigator will be picked up by a Navy boat. He explains that Tonie's disappearance will provide Navy surveillance planes with an excuse to fly over the islands, and the Japanese will be unable to protest because of Tonie's fame. After reassuring Paul that she will return, Tonie flies from Miami to New Guinea. At a small hotel there, she meets the navigator assigned to direct her to Gull Island. The man is Randy, who has been ordered to stow away in her plane before takeoff the next morning. On the veranda outside their hotel rooms, Randy proposes to Tonie and tells her that he had planned to propose to her the night she stood him up in Los Angeles. Tonie angrily replies that he is too late, for she is engaged to Paul and would never betray him the way Randy betrayed her. Later that night, Tonie enters the hotel lobby alone, and the desk clerk, Mr. Yokahata, calmly informs her that the Japanese are aware of her mission and plan to rescue her as soon as she lands on Gull Island. Realizing the importance of her assignment, Tonie decides to take off the next morning alone and disappear into the South Seas. Later, as Tonie and Randy stand on their veranda, watching the rain, Tonie confides her love to Randy, and they begin to dream of having a home and family together. When Randy awakens the next morning, however, he discovers that Tonie has gone, leaving behind her cigarette case with an "x" marking Gull Island. Radio reports track Tonie's progress, and soon news comes of her dwindling fuel supply. As she nears Gull Island, Tonie radios in a distress call and then begins to plummet into the sea. Panicking at the last minute, she ascends to an altitude of 20,000 feet, and after she blacks out from lack of oxygen, her plane crashes into the stormy seas. Some time later, Randy leads an American bombing mission on the Japanese islands, and after dropping his load of bombs, he pulls out Tonie's cigarette case and places a check mark on the target.