IT WAS a birthday like no other for Ji Thorley on Monday when he took off from Tamworth airport on a record-breaking mission to become the youngest person in Australia to fly solo.
He might be too young to drive or sip a beer, but he was up in the skies handling a light plane on his own on the "perfect" morning.
"I love flying because you're free in the air and you basically have no limits, and you're in control of a machine that's really big," Ji told the Leader after touching down.
"It was awesome."
The Tamworth teenager said he wasn't nervous about flying, but it was a strange feeling to look over and see an empty seat.
I love flying because you're free in the air and you basically have no limits, and you're in control of a machine that's really bigJi Thorley
"You really get the sensation that you're up there alone," he said.
Ji took a keen interest in aviation from a young age - he's been in the Australian Air League since he was seven years old.
He's only recently started training with a local commercial flight school and hopes to have his pilot's licence by this time next year.
"I want to be a pilot, a commercial pilot that flies the big aircraft across seas ... so I'll eventually get up to that stage," he said.
"I want to fly for Qantas all over Australia."
Ji's mother Sharryn Thorley said her son's flight beat the previous record by about 10 hours, though they're waiting on official confirmation.