At a tiny airstrip in Markham, north of Toronto, in a land of windsocks and aviator sunglasses, young Daniel Weeks taxied his Cessna onto the runway, fired up the engine and took off on his first flight as a pilot with a passenger.
Yesterday, on his 16th birthday, Daniel got his private pilot's licence on the first day he possibly could. He flew his first plane before he drove his first car and that is something that not many Canadians do.
"I'm very proud of him," said his flight-instructor father, Gary Weeks, as he watched the plane soar by. "This was a lot of hard work and for a 15-year-old to give up his summer studying and training, that's a pretty big deal."
The seed of flying was planted in Daniel's head two years ago when his eldest brother, Ben, bought him a $60 introductory flying lesson for Christmas. Since then, he has had the goal of becoming a commercial pilot.
Daniel's mother, Claudette, had been saving her children's baby bonuses in a college fund since her sons were born, but seeing Daniel's interest in flying, she decided to put his share of the money towards that.
The bloodlines are there. His father learned to fly 30 years ago and spent time as a civil-aviation inspector with Transport Canada. His mother was a flight attendant in the late 1970s.
"Aviation just runs in the family and I was interested in it," Daniel said. "I'm glad to have a head start, but it wasn't just something that came to me. I had to work hard for it."
Working for Transport Canada, Mr. Weeks did a lot of flight testing and decided to renew his instructor's licence and teach Daniel himself.
"I insist on not letting bad habits develop, and there were a couple of times that that annoyed him," Mr. Weeks recalled. "But he realized that this guy is not going to go away."
Daniel spent most of the summer studying for the private-pilot written exam, which he passed with flying colours, his father said.
It has been a bad week for aviation incidents; an Air Transat Airbus was forced to make an emergency landing in the Azores after it ran out of fuel and pop star Aaliyah was killed when the small plane she was in crashed after taking off from the Bahamas.
While those things play on the minds of both mother and father, Daniel's training puts their fears to rest.
"Most accidents happen because of pilot error," he said.
(In 1996, seven-year-old Lisa Hathaway of California was killed, along with her father and flight instructor, in the crash of a small plane in Cheyenne, Wyo. At the time, she was trying to become the youngest pilot to fly across the continent.)
As for driving, the Weeks went to the Ministry of Transportation after they left the airstrip and Daniel took the written driver's-licence test and got his learner's permit.
"We're going to take a little drive tonight," his father said. "Hopefully, everything will work out."