"Ok. I'm gonna jump out now."
That's the last thing 24-year-old Kandace Sittichinli heard from her instructor before she realised she was sitting in the pilot's seat of a plane, alone.
It was the day she's been waiting for ever since she was a child growing up in Inuvik, N.W.T..
"My heart was really beating," said Sittichinli, recalling the moments before she took off on her first ever solo flight last week.
It was just her and a Cessna Skyhawk II — a single-engine plane that first-year aviation students like Sittichinli use to fly.
"I was praying out loud, and I wasn't sure if everyone heard me pray on the radio," she said.
And then, it was take-off.
"I still felt a little nervous, but right as I put the power in, the nervousness went away," she said. "It felt really sweet."
Soon, she was 400 metres in the sky.
"It was just me and the air."
Childhood dream coming true
"I've always known I wanted to be a pilot. But I didn't think I'd be doing it so soon," said Sittichinli.
She said it's was a dream nurtured by her mother since a young age.
"My mom brought us on trips and showed us places," she said. "I'd be on a plane, just looked out the window, and I just always wanted to be a pilot."
Starting in September of this year, Sittichinli began attending aviation school at First Nations Technical Institute in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, Ont., located between Ottawa and Toronto.
Her day is split into two: a theory portion, and morning flight training with instructors who teach them how to handle various flying scenarios like spins, stalling and emergency failure.
"It's amazing. I love it," she said.
She was the first in her class of around 20 students to fly solo last week.
After her three-year program, Sittichilni said she hopes to come back home and find a job with a small airline like Air North, Aklak Air or North Wright Airways.
"If you dream about it, just do it," she said. "You can do anything you put your mind to."