It's a long plane ride from Sao Paulo, Brazil -- where Will Simpson was born. But by age 6, when he flew to Westport for the first time, Will already was fascinated by planes.

Will is now a 16-year-old junior at Staples High School. He attended Saugatuck and Green's Farms Elementary Schools, then Bedford Middle School. After private school, he enrolled at Staples in October 2011.

That was a milestone in his life. Another came four months later. On Feb. 4, he flew a plane for the first time.

"It was pretty scary," Will said, thinking back to that day at Bridgeport's SikorskyAirport. "But it's a big adrenaline rush too -- especially your first takeoff. There are so many things to think about."

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About the "15 Minutes of Fame" series "15 Minutes of Fame" is a periodic series prepared by Staples High School officials to highlight one student's out-of-school activity that few people realize. Some students profiled are following dreams that leave little time for traditional sports, arts or other pursuits through which others gain recognition. The artist Andy Warhol once predicted that everyone would enjoy 15 minutes of fame at some point in their lives. Staples officials say their goal is to provide those 15 minutes for some students during their high school years in hopes it will lead to greater recognition later in life.

Yet in the air, he said, there is a different perspective.

"In the air, I see everything from a different point of view. It's very relaxing, and there's lots of freedom. It's a way to get away from everything on the ground," he said.

Every lesson, Will learns something new. Right now he's studying emergency procedures. "Like, what happens if there's an engine failure," he explained. "You have to go through this long checklist while you're circling the selected landing spot, and concentrate on so many things while keeping a certain speed and flying the plane."

Still ahead: instrument and multi-engine flying.

A good pilot must be "comfortable and confident with everything in a plane," Will said. The models he flies primarily are both four-seat, single engine aircraft -- the Grumman Tiger and Grumman Cheetah.

To prepare for his first solo, Will is perfecting his landings. The first one is "very scary," he said. "But then you gain confidence."

Will has flown with several different instructors. The idea is "to see if you're nervous flying with someone new," he said.

Some of his toughest lessons, he said, have been when instructors remained silent. "There's no feedback at all. You worry that you're doing something wrong. But they're silent so you can figure everything out yourself."

There are take-home exams, too. Will estimates he spends several hours a week in the air and studying.

Will hopes to study aeronautics in college. A career in the field would be "amazing," he said. At the same time, he's enjoyed other activities in high school, including manning the television camera for Staples Television Network sports broadcasts. He was also named a Staples Student of the Month.

One of his Staples teachers, Brooke Barrington, thinks he can turn flying into a profession.

"Flying has really helped build Will's confidence," she says. "It's helped him mature, too, by taking on such a big responsibility."