The sky's the limit for 17-year-old Cordelia resident Kathleen Engle.

The Solano Community College student -- who graduated one semester early from nearby Rodriguez High School -- recently was accepted to the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis and, on Monday, was awarded her pilot's license at Rio Vista Airport.

Engle said flying is what her life's all about, and she's hoping to become a U.S. Marine Corps aviator when she graduates from Annapolis.

"It seems like I've always flown," she said. "I think my earliest flight was probably at age 1."

Engle doesn't recall much about that first flight, but she remembers subsequent trips as she was growing up, being fascinated by aircraft and using every opportunity to talk to the flight crew and learn more about aviation.

In 2006, Engle got to go on an introductory Young Eagles flight at Buchanan Field in Concord and she was hooked.

"I couldn't fully reach the rudder pedals with my feet, but I was determined," Engle said.

That determination paid off.

A year ago, the fledgling pilot started flight training at the Rio Vista Airport with the Travis Aero Club, supplemented with some ground school at the Nut Tree Airport in Vacaville.

Testing, she said, involves a a lengthy oral quiz that covers "basically everything that's in the student manual."

Knowing the answers quickly and from memory is essential because there isn't always time to flip through a pilot's guide when problems occur in flight.

On March 15, Engle took her required check ride, a 1-1/2 hour test of her hands-on skills in the air.

"There were maneuvers, steep turns, power-on, power-off stalls, navigation and emergency engine failure simulation," Engle explained with a smile. "There were three different types of take-offs and landings and knowing the aircraft check list -- all of those things you have to have memorized."

One of the most important things to remember, the new pilot said, is that aircraft are designed to fly and can continue to do so under extremely difficult conditions.

"A plane will fly even if you lose engine power or your electrical system," she said. "It can still fly for awhile. That's why you practice."

Engle learned to fly in a single-engine, low-wing Piper P-28.

Her favorite aircraft, though, are a little more exotic.

At the top of her list is the venerable F-4U Corsair, a sturdy World War II fighter that was usually flown from aircraft carriers in the Pacific. Among modern aircraft, Engle has her sights set on the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter, a future Marine aircraft similar to the U.S. Air Force's F-22 Raptor.

Despite her preference for the high-tech fighter, Engle admits she'd be willing to fly anything that comes her way.

"I would love to be a fighter pilot, but I wouldn't mind at all flying a C-130," she added.

Her military education starts at Annapolis in a few months. She's expecting her "permit to report" package from the naval academy next month, followed by induction day on July 1 and "plebe summer," an introductory period for incoming students.

"Plebe is basically the lowest form of life at the academy," Engle explained.

After four years at Annapolis, Engle hopes to earn a bachelor of science degree in aeronautical engineering and take her place as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps. After that, she's hoping there's an F-35 in her future.

Engle points out that her penchant for high achievement is nothing special in her family -- her twin brother, Matthew, was recently accepted to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and he wants to fly search-and-rescue helicopters.