James Logan, a hard-drinking, disheartened ex-pilot, pawns his Distinguished Service Medal to raise money for his next drink. At a cheap nightclub, Jim drunkenly boasts of his heroism as a pilot during the Korean War, an illustrious career that was shattered after his plane was shot down and both his legs broken. When Jim accuses the bartender of cheating him, a fight ensues and Jim is jailed for disorderly conduct. The arrest of a war hero makes the headlines, attracting the attention of Ted Wallack, a pilot who flew with Jim in Korea. Ted, now head of the test pilot program at the Harrison Air Craft Company, offers Jim a job testing the company's jets that are being designed for commercial use. Given the choice of spending thirty days in jail or going to work, Jim accepts Ted's offer. At the Harrison plant, Ted introduces Jim to Randall, the gruff, no-nonsense head of engineering who chastises Jim for his inability to cope with having been a war hero. After introductions at the factory, Ted secures Jim a room at the boarding house owned by Jean Carter, an earthy divorcee with whom Ted is romantically involved. That night, Jim goes to a restaurant and orders a double bourbon. While crumpling up his pawn ticket, Jim accidentally knocks his drink over, splashing the woman seated at the next table. When the woman jokes that Jim spilled his drink as a ruse to pick her up, Jim angrily leaves. The next day, Ted introduces Jim to Joyce Matthews, the head of the plant's medical department, who is to administer a battery of physical and psychological exams to Jim. Much to his embarrassment, Jim recognizes Joyce as the woman from the restaurant. As the plane nears completion, Jim is placed in a flight simulator to test his ability to pilot a passenger jet. When he becomes panicked by the high-pitched screech of the jet engines, Jim decides to quit. After Joyce chides him for allowing his failure in Korea to "blackmail him into skid row," Jim replies that he has lost both his courage and his reflexes. That night, Jim has a nightmare about being in combat. Thrashing about in terror, Jim knocks a bottle of liquor off the nightstand and then awakens, sobbing. The next day at the plant, Randall refuses to accept Jim's resignation, then assigns him to be Ted's test pilot. As Jim scrutinizes a model of the jet suspended in the wind tunnel, Joyce enters and welcomes him back. Just then, a technician switches on the engines, sending a blast of air churning through the tunnel. Jim grabs Joyce to steady her, and as they careen against the walls, they kiss. Later, over dinner, Jim admits that during the turmoil in the tunnel, he called out to Joyce that he needs and wants her. Soon after, Burton, the head of the company, tells Randall that Jim is too controversial and too big a risk to be appointed test pilot, but Randall stands by his decision. That night, as Joyce and Jim prepare to meet Ted and Jean for dinner, Joyce returns Jim's medal to him. At the restaurant, a surprised Jim is greeted by "Logan's Loonies," his old squadron from the war, who have come to a surprise party held in his honor. Throughout the evening, Steve Hanley, one of the squad, glares a Jim. Later, outside the restaurant, Steve climbs into his auto, challenges Jim to a game of "chicken," then smashes into Jim's car, crashing it into a tree. When Steve taunts Jim about "ditching the fight" in Korea, a brawl ensues. After Ted pulls Jim and Steve apart, Jim declares that he wants to be left alone and leaves. On the day of the big test, Joyce, worried about Jim, monitors the activities from a mobile unit. Despite Burton's objections, Randall insists on participating in the flight. Once the aircraft reaches cruising altitude, Randall orders Jim to take the controls from Ted. After voicing complete faith in Jim, Randall explains that Jim's squadron saved his son's life in Korea. Randall continues that he feels honor bound to repay the debt by restoring Jim's confidence. Encouraged by Randall's speech, Jim confidently takes the controls and safely lands the plane.