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When Maj. Paul Peterson is called back into active service by his former commanding officer, Col. William Hughes, he joins a team conducting tests on a downward ejection seat for the B-47 bomber. Although tests have been made utilizing articulated dummies, the time has come to place humans in the seat. The volunteer will freefall through space for thirty-three thousand feet before an automatic timer opens a parachute to return him safely to earth. Paul, married with a young son, is understandably nervous about this assignment and later learns that he has not been chosen for the first test. Instead, a playboy bachelor, Capt. Mike Cavallero, is selected to be the first to go. The night before the test, Mike goes nightclubbing with two women and meets an old friend, Capt. Jack Nolan, and his wife Frances. Jack, who flew with Mike in Korea, tells him that he has been assigned to assist the project. Later that night, Mike goes to the airfield to look at the seat being installed in the plane and admits to Paul, who has stopped by, that he is more than a little scared. The next day, the test experiences trouble when the parachute snaps open too early and there is no sign of life from Mike as the seat falls into the ocean. Later in the hospital, project doctor Maj. Irving Goldman informs Paul and a civilian engineer, Dr. Franz Gruner, that although Mike has a broken neck, he may eventually recover. Hughes decides that the tests will continue and that Lt. Edward Simmons will go next, to be followed by Paul. Meanwhile, Frances visits Paul, his wife Carol and their son Kit and after the two women discuss the problems of being married to pilots, they leave for an evening at the officers' club. Simmons, distrustful of German engineer Gruner, packs his own parachute before the test. During a bingo game at the club, word circulates that Jack has been killed in a B-47 crash. After Paul and Carol attempt to comfort Frances, they return home to find Hughes waiting with the news that Simmons is in the hospital, being operated on for appendicitis. Paul believes that the project is jinxed and is ambivalent about doing the test. However, he is also concerned that Hughes thinks he has gone soft and has lost respect for him. That night while Paul has nightmares, Carol slips out to beg Hughes not to use him for the test, but Hughes is unresponsive. The next day, partly motivated by the fact that Jack was killed because he could not bail out, Paul shows up to find Hughes suiting up to perform the test himself. Paul pleads with Hughes to let him go up as he now feels that he must go through with the test. When Paul ejects, all goes as planned except that he does not spread-eagle his legs as a signal that he is safe and this causes much tension on board the rescue launch. However, after Paul is examined and found to be fine, he states that he simply forgot to make the signal. Back at the base, Paul is greeted by Carol and Kit and, with their blessing, decides to continue in the project.