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At the Royal Air Force Training Base in Cranwell, England, a new crop of cadets arrives to start a three-year training program. Among them are Roger Endicott, a young man obsessed with building a flying saucer, Tony Winchester and the rich, pampered John Fletcher, who arrives piloting his own plane with which he impudently buzzes the base. In charge of turning these raw cadets into expert pilots is Wing Commander Rudge, who served under Tony's father during World War II. After meeting Tony, Rudge, who holds himself responsible for the senior Winchester's death, feels stirrings of guilt. Once they complete a course in navigation, the cadets board a plane to put into practice what they have learned in the classroom. They all fail miserably, and upon returning to base, Tony confides to Rudge's sympathetic wife Louise that he is experiencing feelings of self-doubt. Later that night, Tony visits the airplane museum on base and climbs into a World War II craft. Rudge walks in soon after and asks Tony what he is doing there. When Tony responds by inquiring about what it was like to fight in a war, Rudge replies that it was like being awake during a nightmare. Just as Tony demands that Rudge tell him how his father was killed, Rudge, still haunted by guilt, hears the sound of a plane crash and rushes onto the airfield where he learns that the pilot has safely bailed out. After completing their first year of training, the students and faculty enjoy a six-week leave then return for their second year of schooling. Once the cadets are finally assigned their own planes, Tony embarks upon a course of daredevil piloting in which he buzzes the local citizenry as well as their livestock. When the townspeople complain, Rudge lectures all three cadets but refrains from disciplining Tony. Later, Endicott demonstrates his newly built miniature flying saucer, which promptly crashes into the commandant's house, disrupting a tea party. On the day that the cadets are to fly solo, an approaching storm forces Rudge to cancel the exercise. Disobeying orders, Tony takes off and flies directly into a blinding storm. After a harrowing landing, Tony is berated by Rudge, who demands that he resign. The cadet then cruelly reminds Rudge that he defied his commanding officer once, resulting in the man's death. Later, after an argument with the commandant about Tony, Rudge tears up the cadet's resignation. At a dance to celebrate the end of the second term, Louise tells Tony that he reminds her of her husband, who suffered greatly before "learning his lesson." For their third year of training, the cadets are transferred to the RAF station at Leuchars, and are surprised to learn that Rudge has been assigned there, too. Only the best cadets will be allowed to perform in an aerobatic show, and when Rudge designates Tony a reserve member of the squad, Tony protests the fact that he is not on the primary team. When Rudge tells Tony that first he must learn to fit into a team, Tony accuses him of punishing him because of his guilty conscience over the death of his father. As the aerobatic team practices for the show, Fletcher's air hose becomes disconnected, rendering him unable to breathe. Although Rudge guides the gasping Fletcher to a safe landing, the injured cadet is disqualified from performing and Tony takes his place. After the air show, the squadron is sent to Germany for training in air-to-air firing. As they take off on their mission, the pilots are warned that flying out of their territorial boundaries could result in their being fired on. When two unidentified aircraft are spotted in the target area, Tony is sent to investigate and is shot at when he inadvertently crosses the border. With his plane severely damaged, the injured Tony is in danger of crashing when Rudge leads the squadron to guide him back to base for an emergency landing. After being pulled from the aircraft, Tony is taken to the hospital. When Rudge comes to visit, Tony smiles and offers his heartfelt thanks.