Hastings teenager Dominik Wilson has always wanted to be a professional pilot and this week was smiling after having achieved the first step - going solo.
The 16-year-old, who is a Flight Sergeant in the Air Training Corps (ATC) has just wrapped up 10 days at RNZAF Base Woodbourne - living the life of a pilot and flying every day as part of the New Zealand Cadet Forces National Aviation Course.
However, last October he had to absorb the "heart shattering" news that his dreams of one day flying as a profession could be in jeopardy.
"I was diagnosed with a form of colour blindness while sitting my aviation medical - the doctor here told me I would not be able to fly for the Air Force."
While stunned and upset at the news, he was told, though, that he would still be able to fly privately, with some restrictions.
"I knew this was going to be a challenge and I wasn't going to give up on my dream," he said.
The first challenge was engaging in and completing the Woodbourne-based course.
"I noticed this particular course would give me the experience needed to fly solo which has been my goal for a couple of years, so applied and thought why not give it a go?"
His determination and enthusiasm impressed his RNZAF mentors, and he was taken aboard the aviation course which is subsidised by scholarships and fundraising, and which enables cadets to receive top-quality intense training which fast-tracks them to solo flying.
The course involved early wake-up calls, weather briefings and ground training when not flying.
Chief flying instructor and Cadet Force Officer, Flight Lieutenant Craig Walecki said the course was considered one of the highest achievements for any cadet.
"With 35 cadets going through each year we have the opportunity to help young people achieve their goals and fly by themselves," he said.
"It's even a great experience for the instructors - many of us return year after year to volunteer our time and give something back."
Dominik said having now gone solo he wants to advance his aviation dreams any way he can and break down the medical barriers which could affect his chances of making it a career.
He is a familiar sight at the Hawke's Bay Aero Club, where as a "Young Eagle" he helps out wherever he can.
He cleans aircraft and talks with the pilots.
"I need to focus on my school work for now, and see a specialist eye doctor and find out for certain whether I can be a pilot, for a job, or not."