WATERBORO – Twelve-year-old Florian Knollmann acquired a helicopter Wednesday, but only after learning how to fly it.

The experience couldn’t have been any more exhilarating if the chopper had been full-sized instead of a $500 model operated by remote control.

Florian, who has non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, spent most of Tuesday and Wednesday learning about engineering with twin brothers Mike and Geoff Howe, owners of Howe & Howe Technologies, which designs and builds extreme vehicles for the military and Hollywood.

The brothers also star in “Black Ops Brothers: Howe & Howe Tech,” a television program on the Discovery Channel about their business.

Florian discovered the show through the Netflix video streaming service and watched episodes while he was in the hospital undergoing chemotherapy.

Because his disease is life-threatening, Florian qualified to have a wish granted through the nonprofit Make-a-Wish Foundation. He asked to come to Waterboro and build a helicopter with the Howes to fulfill his dream of becoming an engineer.

The Maine chapter of Make-a-Wish worked with Florian to figure out exactly what his dream day would look like, then contacted the Howe brothers last year.

“The first thing I thought was ‘I can’t believe it’ and the second thing was ‘absolutely,’ ” Geoff Howe said. “There was no way we were not going to do it, and it’s a profound feeling that his wish was to come up and hang with us.”

Florian, his older brother and their parents arrived in Maine Sunday afternoon from Washington, D.C. On Tuesday, he spent the day at Howe & Howe remotely controlling a robotic military vehicle and working with the company to build a professional-grade, radio-controlled model helicopter.

Burt Dumond, president of the Southern Maine Radio Control Helicopter Association, was Florian’s flight instructor.

On Wednesday, the Howes took the Knollmanns for a trip on a chartered boat and then returned to the shop so Florian could start designing a custom plaque on specialized software and testing the helicopter.

Florian said the whole experience was “awesome” and he hoped to use the skills he learned with the Howes in his future career.

“(The experience) means a lot to me,” he said. “I’d like to work with the military, maybe building robots, or building cars or boats or a plane. Or, like, work for Lamborghini or Porsche.”

In addition to the helicopter, Florian will go home with parts and equipment donated by the Howes and the helicopter association.

Florian’s mom, Barbara Knollmann, said the experience meant the world to the entire family, which plans to do some hiking and camping before heading back to Washington on Sunday.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to have a wish come true after everything he went through,” she said. “He has been in a lot of pain from treatments, so this means a lot.”

The family’s situation changed dramatically after Florian’s diagnosis in 2011. “Life really stopped and everyone just focused on getting Florian through the treatments,” she said. 

Karen Antonacci can be contacted at 791-6377 or at:

[email protected]