Three years ago, Cody McLean dreamed of following in his older brother's footsteps on the soccer field. But an injury forced him to look to the skies instead.
"I broke my growth plate," the 14-year-old Sultana freshman said.
"He couldn't walk on it for a year," added his father, Mike McClean.
So the boy's parent bought him a small remote-controlled airplane. Since then he's become a veritable David Beckham with wings.
Eventually he graduated from an 20-inch miniature to a 35-pound, ZN line aircraft with a wingspan of about 10 feet and a 32-inch propeller.
"It's 42 percent the size of a real airplane," Cody said.
Each plane - Cody has two - costs $8,000 to $10,000. The remote control, which is a 12-channel device controlling numerous rudders on independent channels, costs nearly $2,000.
Cody began competing soon after his parents gave him his first plane. But recently his piloting skills have taken him to competitions in Tennessee, Indiana, Oregon, Utah and Idaho and more.
"I've won seven major contests."
Last year at the 2007 Tucson Aerobatic Shootout, which is one of most prestigious events in the U.S., Cody lost communication with his servos but was able to land his precious plane without incident. Coming off a second-place finish at the Nationals in Indianapolis over the summer, Cody was determined do one step better.
Facing the top intermediate fliers in the world, his skills impressed the judges, and he walked away with a coveted first place win at the 2008 edition of the Tucson Aerobatic Shootout in early October.
"Cody was ranked No. 5 in world," said his father, Mike, who drives to Oceanside to work every weekday morning. "Now he's ranked No. 1."
Cody not only had to master the remote and knowledge of small-plane aeronautics, but he had to endure sometimes unpleasant tactics from usually older competitors.
"His average competitor is 40 years old," his father said. "They play head games with kids."
"He used to cry," said his mother, Judy McLean. "The guys were mean to him."
Competing has taught Cody numerous things. Besides learning to take heated competition in stride, he's also learned hand-eye coordination, mechanical skills and geometry.
A testament to that as a Ranchero Middle School 8th-grader, Cody had the highest STAR test score in math in the Victor Valley.
Having seen other competitors make an error and crash their aircraft, he's learned take care of an expensive piece of equipment.
"Now he understands money," his mother said.
As the winner of the recent shootout, he has been invited to travel to Australia for the Queensland Challenge, but he'll need to raise more than $10,000.
It wouldn't be surprising if the smart, math-and-science minded teen were to become a doctor like his older brother, Ryan. But he has his own flight path to success in mind.
"I want to work for 'Mythbusters.'"