Glendale Police Sgt. Steve Robertson got his start in the cockpit at age five. His father would tuck a couple of phone books under him so he could see out of the family's Cessna 150.
"I just loved it, every kid loves flying," Robertson said. "He got me started and that is where I got the passion from."
On Friday, Robertson, now a helicopter pilot with the Glendale Police Department's air division, introduced another 5-year-old to the thrill of flying, treating La Crescenta Elementary School kindergartener Reece LoCicero to an aerial tour of greater Los Angeles.
"Reece loves flying and the fact that someone actually heard that this is a dream of his, it was really special to make [it] come true," his mother, Natalia LoCicero, said.
Reece has struggled with an undiagnosed illness since infancy, enduring long stays at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles with symptoms including severe fevers, internal bleeding and skin sores. The Montrose family was forced to take on thousands of dollars in loans to cover medical bills.
When Reece's story was made public earlier this year, he was embraced by members of the local community, who set about raising money and creating experiences to benefit the LoCicero family.
"I had heard [Reece] months ago, and in one of the stories it mentioned that he wanted to fly," Robertson said. "I just figured it was the right thing to do at this time of year."
In addition to his mother, Reece was joined on his Christmas eve flight by his father, Jason LoCicero, and friend and La Crescenta Elementary school mate Travis Sawicki, 5. Robertson flew them in a privately owned Agusta A109 helicopter, traveling as far as Malibu. They also took in the Hollywood sign and downtown Los Angeles.
"This is my special day," Reece said.
The family was also given a tour of the police department's air hanger at Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, where the two boys climb in and out of the department's three helicopters.
"I've never been so close to one – beautiful!" Travis exclaimed as he moved his way around the hangar.
Reece has always been fascinated by flying and aircraft, Jason LoCicero said, and his interest intensified after the family attended the Point Mugu air show.
"It is a very special thing for all of the family," Natalia LoCicero said. "It's not [something I] think I would have been able to do for my kids growing up, so this is a very special memory."