MacGyver is heading for a childhood fishing hole he went to with his dad, but gets lost trying to find it. He stops at the nearby Sparrow Ridge Airport, a small air strip in the middle of nowhere with a café and a flight school. MacGyver pulls up and walks by a scruffy looking man, Buddy, who seems to just be hanging around. MacGyver's unaware that Buddy is concealing an assault rifle. MacGyver goes in and spots the owner, Kelly Nielson, and the flight instructor and pilot, Dave Redding. Another man, Terry Andrews, is playing pinball. Andrews says the place is closed but Kelly hastily offers to help him with directions.
MacGyver notices that Dave has a recent cut on his face and asks for a cup of coffee. As they chat, Kelly slips MacGyver a cup of coffee with the word "Help" written just below the top of the coffee level. Buddy comes in and spots the message, and brings out his rifle. Andrews takes charge and tells MacGyver to empty out his pocks, and introduces the cook, Al Tennyson, an older man with a bum leg. Kelly says Andrews and Buddy arrived two hours ago and took over. Buddy hits on Kelly and Al tries to back him off, and Al threatens to shoot him. Andrew tells him to back off and says they'll be gone in three hours when their charter flight arrives. Buddy hits on Kelly again and Dave intervenes, but he quickly backs down when Buddy threatens him.
Andrews other men, Turk and Elias, arrive with a semi. They've hijacked an armored car and have it in the back of the semi. Andrews is on a tight schedule but has a problem: the door is locked and the security guard is trapped inside. Andrews has Buddy prepare to blow the door open with C-4 but MacGyver offers to get the door open so they don't lose their money and kill the guard. Andrews accepts his offer and MacGyver creates a makeshift thermite torch out of magnesium powder filed off a discarded bicycle. He mixes the magnesium with rust (ferrous oxide) and compresses it into a pipe. He then ignites the mixture with a road flare and uses the torch to burn out the lock. The guard stumbles out and tries to surrender, but Buddy casually shoots him down.
Buddy and Turk force MacGyver and Dave to bury the guard. As they work, MacGyver spots an old fire truck and the helicopter used for flight lesson. Kelly mentioned earlier that Dave was a MedEvac pilot, but Dave says he can't fly any more. He talks about how he was shot down in Vietnam and tortured for 13 months, forced to dig his own grave. Much to Dave's relief, MacGyver notes he isn't perfect either and isn't going to pass judgment on the ex-pilot.
Once they're done, Turk escorts them back inside where the other robbers are counting up the money. Buddy fondles Kelly and gets slapped, and Buddy prepares to shoot her. MacGyver tries to calm things down and Andrews tells Buddy to calm down. They're interrupted when the charter pilot calls and reports he's having trouble with his trim control switch. Kelly says they can't fix it but Andrews tells her to have the pilot, Walt, land so they can make repairs. MacGyver claims he can jury-rig a new switch out of spare parts. Andrews agrees to let him help and sends Kelly with MacGyver to show him where the parts are, and Turk to watch them. Once they're gone, Buddy tells Andrews that no matter what, he'll kill MacGyver when they're done.
In the workshop, Kelly realizes that MacGyver is bluffing and doesn't need any parts. She apologizes for Dave, saying it's not his fault he can't fly any more. MacGyver gets the drop on Turk and then makes packs of explosives out of ether (from starter fluid), fertilizer, newspapers, and duct tape. He sends Kelly back in to tell the others to be ready to move when he sends the signal. Once she's inside, MacGyver sets off one of the explosive packs. The robbers come out to investigate and Kelly, Dave, and Al make a run for the fire truck. Al and Kelly drive while MacGyver and Dave ride up top. MacGyver knocks Buddy and his motorcycle over with a burst of water from the fire hose, using up the remaining water. Andrews and Elias drive after them and MacGyver disables their car with another explosive pack. However, Buddy gets up and gets ahead of them, then comes around and shoots out a tire. The fire truck crashes and MacGyver tries to light another explosive pack. Buddy captures Kelly and forces them to surrender.
A little later, Walt lands at the airfield and Andrews takes Dave out to adjust the trim control. Andrews pretends he's hired Walt for a fishing charter at first but then draws his gun and forces them to go to work. Buddy has Al make sandwiches for the flight and locks MacGyver and Kelly in the walk-in freezer. MacGyver unscrews the inside of the lock and stuffs cardboard inside. He then melts ice using the ceiling light bulb and uses a metal support to channel the water into the lock. As he works, Kelly explains that she was married but got a divorce and never had kids. She and Dave are close but his personal problems have gotten in the way of marriage. When the water-soaked cardboard freezes, it expands and breaks the lock.
They get out but discover the robbers smashed the radio. MacGyver notices a RC airplane and takes it outside. He soaks one of the explosive packs in olive oil, tapes it to the airplane, then launches it . Andrews and the others are preparing to kill Dave, Al, and Walt when the airplane flies overhead. MacGyver lands it by the charter plane and the charge goes off. Kelly gets the others into hiding while Andrews orders his men to find MacGyver so he can't blow up their plane.
MacGyver picks off first Turk and then Elias. The others realize MacGyver needs help but Dave can't bring himself to do anything. Kelly finally accuses him of cowardice, saying he won't help, not that he can't. Dave runs for the helicopter and meets MacGyver there, while Andrews decides to cut his losses and leave with Buddy. They start taxiing down the runway but Dave can't bring himself to help. MacGyver goes after the charter plane and jumps on the back, jamming the ailerons. Buddy tries to shake him off and Andrews tries to shoot him. Dave finally gets is courage back and lifts off in the helicopter. When Andrews gets out of the plane to shoot MacGyver, Dave knocks him over with the copter's landing strut. He then blocks the runaway and MacGyver takes on Buddy and knocks him out. Dave and Kelly embrace and when he goes to help the others deal with their prisoners, Kelly thanks MacGyver for his help.