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20,000 Men a Year

20,000 Men a Year(1939)

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On the Pacific Airlines' flight from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles, the plane hits a thick bank of fog. One passenger assures another that things will be okay as Brad Reynolds is the pilot. Reynolds and his co-pilot, Al Williams, are told by their dispatcher to re-route to Saugus, but Brad safely lands in Los Angeles anyway. Jim Howell, the Southwestern representative for the Civil Aeronautics Authority, and Brad's old adversary, suspends Brad for sixty days. Brad quits in a huff and buys the Comet Airport in Riverdale, California. The airport, except for mechanic Walt Dorgan, is more liability than asset. Brad is even forced to refund his top student Skip Rogers' deposit when his sister Ann tells him that Skip is flying without adult consent. As the bank is about to foreclose on the airport, Brad goes back to Pacific to ask for his old job, but is told that he is too old. The CAA, meanwhile, decides to try a college student flight training program at selected universities, with local airports as the training grounds. Unknown to Brad, Jim convinces Riverdale banker Crandall to get Brad the bid, as nearby Western Institute of Technology is one of the chosen campuses. Brad becomes a college instructor and begins selecting and training his students. Transferring to Western from Texas State is Tommy Howell, Jim's little brother, who becomes Skip's roommate. Skip, unable to get his sister's permission to fly, arranges a meeting between Brad and Ann, who compromise by letting Skip take a ground crew course. During flight training, Tommy acts cocky, but admits to Brad that he is afraid to fly and does so only to please his brother. Brad offers Tommy secret early morning lessons. Jim, thinking that Brad is unfairly grading his brother, gets into a fight with Brad, which is broken up by the arrival of some flight students. During one of Tommy's secret lessons over a cavernous mountain range, the plane's oil line breaks. Tommy panics, forcing Brad to knock him out in order to release the throttle. Tommy, thinking the plane is crashing, parachutes out. Brad lands the plane and convinces a farmer to drive him back to the airport, and then takes a second plane up to search for Tommy, with Skip forcing his way along. They find Tommy hanging by his parachute from a tree over a cliff. Brad lands the plane and climbs the tree to release Tommy. A branch breaks, and Brad falls and injures both legs, making him unable to fly. When they don't return, Walt is forced to tell Dean Norris all. Norris calls Jim and a search begins. The next morning, Skip tells Brad that the search planes cannot see them in the canyon and that he must fly the plane out himself if the two are to survive. Brad agrees, giving Skip strict instructions on how to fly the plane out of the canyon. Skip does so, but unknowingly loses his left landing gear to a mountain top. At Comet Airport, Jim and his boss, Gerald Grant, await word from the search parties. Seeing the plane trying to land without its gear, Walt blocks the runway with his jeep until Jim can take another plane up to warn Skip and Brad. Learning of the problem, Brad tells Skip how to execute a two-point landing. On his second pass at the runway, Skip successfully lands the plane. Tommy, Skip and the others finish their pilot training, as Brad and Ann, now together, watch from below. Walt offers Ann his lucky baby shoes, telling her that, with Brad, she will need them.