2008, Culver City, California. The banner tow pilot and single father GREG CAMP listens as the Federal Aviation Administration(FAA) eye specialist informs him that he has a degenerative retinal disease, a condition that will lead to total blindness if he doesn’t follow the strict diet he is prescribed. He is also informed that his pilot’s license is being suspended, at least until he undergoes a much-needed operation.
As his condition worsens and he struggles to make ends meet, Greg risks losing the only means to provide for his two kids, who live with him in a motorhome provided by the Gardenia Valley Airfield. His condition breaks the family’s morale, damaging his relationship with his son Chris (15), who openly defies him by washing cars in a nearby lot to bring in extra cash. To his younger son Digger (8), Greg is still a hero, but Chris resents this, knowing that his admiration is based on nothing but a mixture of lies and past glories, like the Cuban Eight, the signature upside-down maneuver that made his name back in the day.
RANDY BABBITT, an inspector from the FAA, drives to the airfield to investigate an unanswered question in Greg’s case: Did he break the law by using his private pilot’s license for commercial purposes? Towing banners without a proper license is an ethical violation that could result in a trial and a strict penalty. After the surgery Greg, his eyesight still blurry, goes to the FAA and fills in an application to get his license back, but he accidentally applies for a co-pilot position at Southwest Airline. Broke but determined, he sees this as an opportunity to get back in the game and even to get his aircraft back. However, unable to perform as a pilot, he is replaced and asked to move out of the motorhome with his kids.
A ‘Diversity and Inclusion’ statement convinces FAA chief inspector Willy to give Greg a break. He tells him that to get the co-pilot position he’ll need to buy a couple of expensive manuals and do an unpaid training period. Willy also gives him an ultimatum: if he doesn’t get his license before the training period ends, the opportunity to work with the company will be handed to someone else.
The day of the FAA co-pilot final exam arrives. When their turn comes to discuss Greg’s progress, most inspectors are not convinced, but Ben Wilfer steps in: ‘We believe in our people and America is still the land of equality and opportunity. Sure, he can’t see well, but he has the experience and, most importantly, the instinct of an expert pilot. He’s passed each and every test with flying colors. He’s been landing planes by listening to the propellers alone; if that’s not talent, I don’t know what is.’ Ben Wilfer finally manages to convince them, and Greg gets the job.
Greg opens the door to the family service community room. The kids and staff all turn to see him dressed in a suit, wearing a pilot’s cap with a shiny logo that reads: ‘Southwest Airlines’. Digger smiles and runs over to him. His hero is back.