THE sky is the limit for Scott McLay. The teenager from Perth signalled his huge potential when he swam to the five medals, three of them gold, which made him Scotland's most successful ever participant at the Commonwealth Youth Games in the Bahamas this summer.

But his swimming career isn't the only thing that is taking flight. As he was fast tracked into the Scotland team for next April's Commonwealth Games, the 18-year-old spoke of the secret ambition he harbours to be a commercial pilot, and how he has been behind the controls of numerous light aircraft in the skies above his dad's Alastair's home in Orange County, California, as he works towards earning his private pilot's licence. Perhaps his calculations include the idea that if the swimming doesn't work out he can always land himself a gig with Ryanair.

"I like to fly and I want to be a commercial pilot," said McLay. "My dad lives over in California, so when I go over there, him and I go flying. I go over twice a year as a holiday.

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"I have flown a Cessna 172 and a 182, they are four sweaters, just little single prop engine and a Cirrus SR 22G, which is a lovely new aircraft," he added. "My dad isn't a commercial pilot - he is an IT technician - but he goes up and flies for a hobby and I have always gone alongside him. The club we are part of is Orange County flight school, which is at John Wayne airport. We fly to San Diego, to Los Angeles, to Palm Springs and around that area.

"That is the job I want to do. I will concentrate on the swimming for as long as I can, hopefully get to the Olympics in Tokyo 2020 and then after swimming I want to move on to being a pilot. Sixteen is when you can start to get your pilot's licence and I am in the very early days of that - once you get that is about getting other types of ratings and working your way up to becoming a commercial pilot.

"But I was about 5 when I first went up with my dad - I loved it and I have been fascinated with it from them on. My dad has always been fascinated with planes and he wanted to be a pilot when he was younger so and has always involved me in that kind of world. As I've got older it has just developed and that is what I want to be."

Swimming provided one of the stories of the 2014 Commonwealth Games when Ross Murdoch surprised himself and the world by pipping Michael Jamieson in the 200m breaststroke final. McLay was in attendance that night at Tollcross, and in some ways the challenge facing him is similar as he attempts to thrive in the slipstream of his fellow Strathallan alumnus Duncan Scott in the 100m freestyle. He has surprised himself just by making the team.

"I was there in Glasgow 2014," said McLay. "I watched [his Perth City clubmate] Stephen Milne and watched Ross Murdoch win the 200m. I remember sitting there and my mum was saying 'you could be there in four years time' but I said 'no, I won't' because I just didn't think I would be able to get to the level I am at now. It's all thanks to the people at Perth City and Elaine Johnston [his coach in the swim programme at Strathallan] that I was able to get here.

"Watching that race is something that will stick with me for the rest of my life," said McLay. "The atmosphere of a home games, where everyone was shouting for Ross and Michael. Of course, I would like to eventually beat Duncan too because he is an incredible swimmer but he is also a great guy, and a great guy to work with in the pool and we are great teammates. I trained with Duncan at Strathalla, and I did that for two years so it was like meeting up with an old friend, I guess, when I joined the Stirling Uni training group.

"At the beginning of the season, I sat down with my coach Ann Dickson and we set out the goals for the season," said McLay. "I put the Gold Coast down there as something to strive for but I didn't think I would be going. It was just there to give me a target. I went to the European Junior Championships in Israel and really liked the atmosphere of it all and that made me strive for it even harder. When I was in that competition, I just pushed myself as far as I could go and that was my best time for the 100m freestyle. It was around about there that I thought, 'you know what, this could be achievable'. When I went to the Commonwealth games in the Bahamas I didn't expect to do as well as I did but we had a great team and had great support and I came away with five medals."

If it helps that McLay, and Scott, will have their coach Steven Tigg as part of the travelling party for the Gold Coast, McLay's emergence is a feather in the cap of Perth City Swim Club, based in the rather spartan surroundings of the Perth Leisure Pool.

"It is a normal 25m pool and the public are in sometimes as well so it is not like we always have the whole pool to ourselves but when you have dedicated swimmers like Stephen and Camilla [Hattersley] there, they are are always going to go out and achieve it. Ann [Dickson] is the right person to bring on good swimmers.

"I thought those guys were light years ahead and on a different level," he added. "But I just worked my way through the rankings and kept going, getting better and better. I just want to keep going and improving little things at a time - technique, improving race strategies and through that whatever comes, comes."

Ryanair can wait. Because McLay's swimming career is taking off.