Zac Davis didn't spend his 16th birthday at the local DMV trying to get his learner's permit. He didn't even spend some of it with his family. They were thousands of feet below him, watching proudly as he made his first airplane solo flight.
"My family has always been very supportive, which helps a lot," said Davis, of Montoursville.
Davis wasn't just taking one solo flight, though; he took three, in different planes.
"I was proficient enough with all three planes and thought it'd be kind of cool if I did three solo flights on my birthday," Davis said.
When Davis was in seventh grade, he caught the aviation bug from teacher Harry Boyer, who taught industrial arts.
"I tried Mr. Boyer's flight simulator and I loved it! I was hooked," Davis said.
For Christmas that year, Davis' parents bought him flight lessons at an airport in Wilkes-Barre. There, he learned basic skills.
"We practiced takeoffs and landings and did some basic flight maneuvers," Davis said.
Boyer introduced Davis to Alex Minium, a former Montoursville student and a certified flight instructor at Energy Aviation. Davis has been taking flying lessons with Minium ever since.
Minium had earned his pilot's license by following a similar path.
"Zac is taking the same route that I did. A lot of the work has been done on Mr. Boyer's part and his efforts have paved the way for me and, hopefully, for Zac," Minium said.
With Minium as his flight instructor, Davis has learned advanced aviation skills.
"We practice more advanced instrument training and I went on my first cross-country flight to Allentown with Alex," Davis said.
After Minium determined that Davis was proficient enough to take his first solo flight, they had to wait until Davis' 16th birthday.
"That morning we flew to Harrisburg so I could get my student certificate," Davis said.
Once they returned with the certificate, Davis was ready to begin his solo flights. He first soloed in a Cessna 172, then in a Piper Warrior. His final solo flight was in a Cessna 162.
"I think the Cessna 172 was my favorite," Davis said.
Davis' goal is to eventually get his private pilot's license, at the age of 17, graduate from high school and study to become a flight instructor and, possibly, a charter pilot.
"I think with the gas industry, there's going to be more flights, so there's going to be a need for lots of pilots. There's also going to be a need for instructors to teach those pilots," Davis said.
Right now Davis just rents time flying a plane but one day he hopes to own his own.
"It'll probably be a high wing, where the wings are above the cabin ... I really like the Cessnas," Davis said.
Relatively early in his career as a pilot, Davis has put in a lot of work that Minium knows will pay off in the future.
"Flying the way he has been puts you way ahead of the game in a very competitive industry," Minium said.
Davis will just keep taking things one step at a time, or one flight at a time, rather.
"I prefer planes to cars. I'd rather fly than drive," Davis said.