Adapted from a novel by John Monk Saunders, a cocky young Marine pilot is trained by his older friend and competes with him for his girl.
Marine Lt. William Brannigan (Pat O'Brien) learns his kid friend Timmy O'Toole (James Cagney) has joined. Timmy does stunts and buzzes the Marines' review. Brannigan is ordered to get him off government property. Timmy laughs and takes off but runs out of gas and crashes, meeting Betty Roberts (Margaret Lindsay). Timmy sells the plane to Ma Roberts (Helen Lowell) for $50. Timmy pretends to be hurt for Betty. Timmy gives the check back to Betty, asking her to sign it as an I.O.U. for three kisses. Crash Kelly (Frank McHugh) picks up Timmy in the ambulance; Crash keeps hoping for business, but no one gets hurt. Brannigan tells Timmy that Betty is his girl and dresses him down.
Confident Timmy passes physical tests, and the Captain (Russell Hicks) orders Brannigan to teach him. Timmy fools around flying and is checked by Brannigan. When the engine catches fire, Brannigan bails out; but Timmy lands the burning plane. When some men call him "Bail-out Brannigan," Bill requests a transfer; but Betty tells him to fight. Ma tells Betty that Timmy called and is coming over. When Timmy comes to their cafe, Betty is angry at his egotism. Betty sees Brannigan coming and has Timmy hide in the ice box; but Brannigan gets an order to report to an officer. Betty gets sneezing Timmy to leave. Timmy wins a bet with Betty by doing his solo flight with a perfect landing; but he is not tossed into the bay like the others. Timmy invites Betty to the dance. She says no until he accepts her coming as payment for the bet in which he won six kisses. Brannigan asks Ma where Betty is and finds her dancing with Timmy. Brannigan and Timmy go outside; but the Captain asks them to escort his two nieces.
Timmy gets advance training and graduates. During maneuvers Brannigan goes up with Timmy. Another plane comes out of a cloud and clips their wing; but Brannigan won't let Timmy bail out. Brannigan walks out on the wing and repairs it. Despite the danger they land, and Timmy gives the credit to Brannigan. Betty kisses Brannigan and walks off with him. Brannigan asks Betty to marry; but she says she loves him like a brother. Brannigan requests a transfer. Before leaving, Brannigan tells Timmy not to be too swell-headed to go after Betty. Timmy dresses down new recruits and then kisses Betty.
Since Timmy has taken Brannigan's place, one wonders if the next hot-shot recruit will do the same to Timmy. This film was dedicated to the Marines and promotes preparation for war with an entertaining story.