Ramesh Kumar and his son, Rohit Ramesh. - Photo: Supplied.
Being a pilot is not a new dream for 18-year-old Rohit Ramesh.
He has wanted to be a pilot since he was four.
Stepping out of the cockpit of a tiny Tecnam 2008 on Thursday, it appears Mr Ramesh's dream is no longer sky high and instead will become a reality.
He is the first trainee to arrive at the New Zealand Airline Academy at Ōamaru Airport - although he'll have classmates within the next couple of days.
Mr Ramesh will undertake the one-year course before completing at least 200 hours in the air before he can become a commercial airline pilot.
Academy instructor Celroy Mascarenhas said Mr Ramesh had an innate ability.
"He's a quick learner, he did the take-off himself on our very first flight," Mr Mascarenhas said.
"I just get the right vibe from him, he's a natural."
The academy was first announced last month, rekindling hope for the return of commercial airline services to the Waitaki District in the future.
Mr Ramesh said he chose Ōamaru because of the reputation of New Zealand pilot licenses around the world.
The scenery was also a drawcard - "The mountains, the coast from the air, it's a beautiful landscape."
If the weather pans out, he could be a commercial airline pilot before he turns 20.
His dad Ramesh Kumar said the New Zealand climate would take a bit to get used to after escaping 42°C days in Qatar.
"Here it is single digits. We've swapped air conditioners for heaters," Mr Kumar said.
His family travelled over to Ōamaru to spend time with him before his study starts.
"Seeing him flying makes me really proud."
The school is expected to host up to 50 pilot trainees within a couple of years, most of them from overseas.
Waitaki District mayor Gary Kircher said it was a momentous day.
"When the directors first came to us, we made a very strong case to them about why they should choose Ōamaru as the base for their new venture," Mr Kircher said.
"It is a tribute to Council staff and our CEO that we now have the first trainee of many who has travelled here to live and learn in Waitaki.
When the school was announced, North Otago Aero Club president Paul Mortimer said trainee pilots would have the benefit of starting outside controlled airspace, with good weather conditions, a quality airport facility and varied terrain.
The academy would encourage more people to the region as New Zealand has high quality training standards and a great pilot reputation, and could prove a boon for businesses, Mr Mortimer said.