Test Pilot is one of those irresistible MGM potboilers of the 1930s that coast along on sheer star power. Clark Gable plays a courageous test pilot, who compromises his achievements with his frequent bouts of drinking. Gable's mechanic, Spencer Tracy, does what he can to keep his boss out of trouble. While testing a new aircraft, Gable is forced to land on a Midwestern farm, where he meets and falls in love with Myrna Loy. Gable and Loy marry, whereupon he is fired by his boss Lionel Barrymore, who is of the opinion that flying and dames don't mix. Gable goes off on another bender, compelling Loy to leave him. Once more, Tracy comes to Gable's rescue by reuniting the couple and arranging for Barrymore to give Gable his job back. Later, Gable and Tracy are assigned to test a huge army bomber. Something goes wrong, and the plane goes into a dive. The self-sacrificing Tracy sees to it that Gable is saved from a flaming death--at the cost of his own life. Gable is so devastated by Tracy's death that it looks as though he'll never fly again. But with Loy's help, Gable regains his self-confidence. As one can see, there's little in Test Pilot that hasn't been done before. But with Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy and Myrna Loy at the controls, the film proved a real audience-pleaser in 1938. In fact, it's still pretty good today.
by Hal Erickson synopsis