A 9-year-old schoolboy with a crew cut and braces on his teeth made a near-perfect landing in his father's light plane Saturday to earn the world's record as the youngest aviator to fly across America and back.
Tony Aliengena, a third-grader from San Juan Capistrano who needs a special booster seat to see over the controls of the aircraft, touched down at 12:20 p.m. PST at Orange County's John Wayne Airport."I feel good," Tony said after easing himself out of the cockpit. "It was a good trip. On a scale of 1 to 10, it was a 5. I'm happy for me.
"And I don't feel sick now," he added, noting he had suffered several bouts of airsickness during the 10-day, 20-city trip that "made it stinky" inside the plane.
Greeting Tony at the airport were more than 100 people, including his schoolmates, members of his baseball team and his parents, Gary and Susan Aliengena, who ran up to the plane and grabbed their son to shower him with hugs and kisses.
"We're ready for him," his father said shortly before Tony's arrival. "We've got a big swimming party planned. It'll be good to have my boy home."
But whether Tony will stay home for long is up in the air.
Moments after landing in Phoenix Friday, he and his instructor, Ed Fernett, began plotting a round-the-world flight.
Tony had heard that John Kevin Hill, 11, of Texas, was planning to break the world record as the youngest pilot to fly around the globe and was excited about the possibility for himself.
And even as Tony was flying home Saturday morning, another 11-year-old, Christopher Lee Marshall of Oceano, Calif., announced he will fly this July from New York to Paris in a journey similar to the one taken by Charles Lindbergh before also attempting a world flight.
"These three should get together," Aliengena said of his son and the two other young fliers.
Although Tony's father said he doubted he could afford sending him on a world flight, Tony remained resolute in making his plans.
"I want to do it in a Malibu, which is made by Piper," he said. "It has a pressurized cabin and it goes a lot faster" than his father's Cessna 210.