It was his fourth flight while in training that Air Force group captain Michael Grant first got handed the keys to an F/A-18A Hornet fighter jet.
"After simulations and dual checks they give you the keys and away you go and it took a week to come down off that high," he said.
Now years later, group captain Grant has handed over the keys to the jet that also bears his name to the Australian War Memorial, where it will now become part of its national collection.
After 30 years of service and more than 6100 flying hours, the Hornet was officially handed over to the war memorial at its National Technology Centre in Mitchell on Friday.
Hornet number A21-022, part of the Royal Australian Air Force's No.75 squadron, was deployed on three military operations in the Middle East.
It was used as part of Operation Bastille and Operation Falconer during the Iraq War in 2003 and was also part of Operation Okra, a military intervention against Islamic State in Iraq between 2016 and 2017.
Group captain Grant was one of the pilots who flew the aircraft during Operation Okra, earning a Distinguished Service Medal for his efforts.
He said while he had served in the Air Force for several decades, it was the Hornets he spent most of his flying time.
"You do get an emotional attachment to it," he said.
"[This one] flies like the other hornets, but when you know it's your aircraft with your name on it, you probably don't kick the tyres as hard as the others when you do your checks.
"They're all the same planes, but you do get a special connection to it, and what that builds is an amazing sense of pride."
The aircraft handed over on Friday to the memorial won't be the first of the hornets handed over to be put on display.
A second will be donated in mid-2022.
Australian War Memorial director Mat Anderson said the newly-donated fighter jet would play a key role in the memorial's collection, particularly ahead of the centenary of the Air Force next year. "This aircraft will be used to tell the stories of those who have flown it, those who maintained it and those who have flown alongside it in support of it," he said.