The Great Waldo Pepper stars Robert Redford as a WWI biplane pilot. However Redford's problem is that he was held back as an instructor, and only getting into the action after the war is almost over. He tells the story of fighting the great Ernst Kessler, as if it was himself when in actuality it was another pilot. He gets injured doing stunts during the barnstorming era. Frustration is his lot. He returns to visit his girlfriend (Margot Kidder), a common landing place when he is injured. He thinks to over come this by being the first to do an outside loop. His brother-in-law builds him a plane for the attempt, however Waldo is grounded temporarily after a stunt goes wrong and a stunt woman falls to her death (Susan Surandon). His partner attempts the stunt, and crashes. Pepper tries to rescue him, but one of the spectators sets the partner on fire with a cigarette. No one will help him extract his friend. As his friend dies, Pepper becomes upset and takes to a plane to buzz the spectators and chase them away. In doing this he crashes, and receives a permanent grounding.
However his flying days are not over. He takes and assumed name, and becomes a stunt pilot. As luck should have it, Kessler is hired as a consultant. They take to the air, and without weapons, end the film with a dog fight.
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