Bobby Portway has his sights set on the sky.
On his 16th birthday in October, Portway did what many kids his age do: He headed straight to apply for his driver’s permit.
After passing that test, he was off again, this time to Mansfield Municipal Airport, where he earned his student pilot’s certificate, which allows him to fly on his own with his instructor’s permission.
He started focusing on flight at age 11, when he attended an open house at the airport, and went up for a ride. He started taking lessons shortly after.
“The first time I flew a plane, I really liked it,” he said.
Now that he’s earned his student pilot’s certificate, he’s working toward his private pilot’s license – he’s eligible to go for that when he’s 17 – and sorting out a career path.
“Flying was an interest of mine,” he said. “I didn’t really know it could be a career.”
A sophomore at Norton High School, Portway is already eyeing aviation colleges like Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla., Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., and Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va.
While he knows he wants to go to an aviation school, he’s keeping an open mind about what exactly he wants to major in.
Portway’s ultimate goal is to become a commercial airline pilot, but that takes time, including logging flight hours, passing medical exams and achieving different certifications. He hopes to work on achieving those milestones while in college.
He’s gotten some insight on what it’s like to be an airline pilot, having visited Southwest Airlines three years ago, touring its Dallas headquarters and meeting with some executives there. He visited JetBlue’s training facility in 2012, and in 2014 was one of 100 students interested in aviation who were invited to Orlando, Fla., where they were flown to an air show and participated in a career day.
Portway said he flies as often as he can, usually every few weeks, and was looking forward to taking a plane up for the first time without his instructor.
While he said he doesn’t get nervous about flying, watching from the ground can be a bit nerve-wracking for his mom, Kathy. Though she admits to getting a little nervous seeing her son take off, she’s mostly filled with pride.
“He knows what he wants at such a young age,” she said.
Having the support of his mom, dad and brother is key, since he’s still not quite old enough to drive himself to the airport.