FORMER St Stanislaus' College student John Downey has gone from making aircraft at home to flying them with the RAAF.
Flight Lieutenant Downey, who grew up in Rockley and Bathurst but these days is based at RAAF Base Tindal in the Northern Territory as a fighter pilot, has created a career in the skies but hasn't forgotten his flying roots.
And that includes his first flight.
"I remember it vividly," he said.
"My first flight was the trial flight for the 2010 Bathurst Aero Club [BAC] and Central West Flying [CWF] flying scholarship.
"Flying with [Central West Flying's] Chris Stott, we pushed the little Jabiru 160 up to full power.
"I still remember, shortly after rotate, looking sideways out the window and realising that for the first time in my life, I was airborne.
"It was an extremely enjoyable 30 minutes which I didn't want to end."
Mr Downey said he was interested in aviation from a young age.
"I remember being given a model aircraft for Christmas as a young boy in primary school," he said. "I spent many of my young years building aircraft out of almost anything, including good old paper."
At high school, with an eye on a career as a pilot, he chose maths and physics to study.
"Maths was never my strong suit, and it certainly challenged me. Initially I doubted whether I would actually be able to achieve becoming a pilot, but as with anything, if you stay determined and put in the effort, it will pay off."
Being awarded the Bathurst Aero Club and Central West Flying scholarship as a 17-year-old, in 2010, "really strengthened my resolve to become a pilot", he said.
"It made me realise that it was, in fact, possible, and that if I was going to fly, I wanted to fly the fastest and the most dynamic aircraft in the country.
"The help I received in the form of the scholarship ensured I would never forget how good it feels to fly."
Mr Downey received his recreational licence in 2011 and, from 2013 to 2015, attended the Australian Defence Force Academy at Canberra as a member of the RAAF, graduating with a degree in Arts majoring in History.
He received his RAAF Wings in September 2017 and last year finished top of his class in his training on the Hawk 127 (which is used to prepare pilots for combat aircraft) at RAAF Williamtown.
He has since graduated from Williamtown's Number 2 Operational Conversion Unit on the FA18 Classic Hornet.
Mr Downey has some advice for fellow country students who hope to take to the skies.
"Anyone can fly in a basic capacity, but it takes dedication and determination to push yourself to rise to the higher challenges of further careers in aviation, whether it be airlines or the military," he said.
"Aviation is a challenging career and that's a big part of what makes it so fun and rewarding.
"As long as you stay focused and keep your goal in sight, it is very achievable.
"Self-belief is very important as it takes confidence in a measured and humble form to fly well."
And he has good news for those who worry about the numbers game.
"You don't need to be the best at maths and physics," he said.
"Day to day, the most maths I use is standard year four addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.
"So if an aviation career is what they want, all they need to do is reach out and chase it."