We all have a particular area that we call home and it tends to be where we ground ourselves and feel most comfortable. For an 18-year-old boy named Mason William Andrews, that home is found in Monroe, Louisiana. He may be at home in that town but he certainly is not limited to only living in that area. In fact, he just did something amazing and ended up bringing home 3 world aviation records.
Mason managed to circumnavigate the entire globe and do it all on his own at the age of 18 in only 17 days. When he came home, he had 3 aviation titles and it was the trip of a lifetime. It started on July 22 and he landed at his home airport on October 6. Along with being the youngest pilot to cross the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, he holds the world record for the total flight around the globe. Now he is going to focus on a much shorter trip, that of walking to his classes at Louisiana Tech
A youngster from Australia, Lachlan Smart, held the old title from 2016. He circumnavigated the globe when he was 18 years and 234 days old. Mason bested him because he is 18 years, 163 days old.
Mason was flying in a single engine Piper PA-32 Lance, named The Spirit of Louisiane when he took his flight around the world.
Documentation will need to be verified by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale. They will look into the fuel receipts, passport stamps and other documentation to certify his journey. The FAI is the official certifying body for aviation records of all types.
After the FAI is finished with the certification, the Guinness Book of World Records will receive the information.
According to Mason’s father, Jeff Andrews, the verification process may take a number of months. He is relieved that the flight has reached its completion and they don’t foresee any problems occurring.
Mason was able to keep track with family and friends on the Internet but he did get lonely while he was on the trip. There were hundreds of people who were tracking his flight continually.
“It’s kind of a weird feeling. You’re alone, but you’ve got a ton of people who are following you, supporting you all the time,” he said.
His father spent a lot of sleepless nights making sure that Mason got to his next destination. Mason gives credit to his father for helping him to follow his dream of becoming a pilot.
“He’s done an unbelievable job that I wouldn’t expect anybody else who’s not a pilot to even be able to do,” he said.
The trip followed the planned path precisely until he reached the Mediterranean. At that point, delays due to the weather almost doubled the original flight time of 40 days. Mason ended up stranded in the Philippines the longest when he landed on September 2 and left on September 21.
Some people thought he was abandoning the flight at that point.
“First of all, I didn’t even have that option. Me coming back home, at a certain point, was just me completing the trip,” he said.
One thing that he absolutely loved about the trip was seeing the pyramids. He also saw Paris landmarks during the eight hours he was in the area but he didn’t typically do a lot of sightseeing on the ground.
In September, he accidentally wandered into Taiwan’s airspace. His radios had failed while he was in the air and he ran into some weather. He deviated and wasn’t talking to anyone.
He ended up being met by an F-16 from the Republic of China. He saw the plane in the clouds but lost it quickly and suddenly, it appeared 5 feet from his left wing. He tried to get back into Japan’s airspace as quickly as he could.
“It’s kind of what you’d expect to happen if you entered someone’s airspace without them expecting you,” he said.
The job of the interceptor is to make the airplane aware of their presence.
“It’s not like they’re going to shoot me down or anything,” Mason said.
For now, Mason is happy to be back home but he isn’t simply resting on his laurels. He is studying at Louisiana Tech as a professional aviation major.
Mason will be honored at the Saturday night football game, take Sunday to rest and then return to his classes on Monday morning. Mason continued to keep up with his classes while he was on the trip and now he will get some hands-on aviation classes at Louisiana Tech.
His parents, Jeb and Nancy Andrews were not permitted to come see him at his other stops since he came back to the US. He wanted to see their genuine reaction when he landed in Monroe.
They met up with him at the Pilots for Patients hangar at Monroe Regional Airport. There were also a lot of cheering fans which included family and friends, dignitaries and MedCamps of Louisiana campers.
While Mason was on the trip he was helping to raise funds for those free summer camps for children with physical and developmental difficulties. He worked at the camps for three years and he has a love for the program.
The president of the University, Les Guice presented him with a $10,000 scholarship from Louisiana Tech Foundation. He made note of the sacrifices that the Andrews family went through to make the trip possible.
“I don’t know that you can have that much more flying experience, but I know you’ve got a lot of flight fees coming up,” Guice joked.
U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, R-Alto was also at the hangar to meet Mason when he returned. He presented him with a certificate from the federal government recognizing the accomplishment. He also received a flag flown over the US capital in his honor.
“For those that aren’t aviators, what he accomplished these last 75 days was just next to impossible. A single-engine aircraft in weather that’s very unpredictable, despite the best forecasts, and things that you run into in the air, on the ground that no one would understand unless you’ve been to foreign countries. It’s very, very tough and this guy did it,” Abraham said.
Abraham is a major in the U.S. Air Force Auxiliary Civil Air Patrol and a pilot with the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary. He is also a pilot who flies both helicopters and airplanes. He called Mason an ambassador for the US.
“We can pat each other on backs and say, ‘this is our guy.’ And it doesn’t matter what particular breed of politics you believe in — we believe in America. And if I don’t have an American patriot right here, there is not one on this earth,” Abraham said.
The mayor of Monroe, Jamie Mayo was on hand to present Mason with a proclamation for his accomplishment.
“Mason’s journey is a noble and adventurous feat! I am happy to hear Mason returned back to Monroe safely. His courage and dedication earned him a new world record and helped raise over $25,000 for Louisiana MedCamps. This is an incredible accomplishment,” said U.S. Sen. John Kennedy in a news release.
A City Councilman, Mike Echols, presented Mason with the Distinguished Service Award. He brought out how the honor is given to those who perform a unique service to the city. There’ve only been a few of those awards handed out recently. He also provided Jeb and Nancy with a bag of coffee because of the sleepiness knights they had while their son was on the flight.
A handcarved replica of the plane was given to Monroe by Nell Calloway with the Chennault Aviation & Military Museum. A basket of gifts was also given.
His father gave him the final presentation that morning. He had a planner but when Mason left Monroe, it was 102 degrees and his son was in a T-shirt and shorts. He didn’t consider the Siberian winter but the weather delays made him go through some chilly weather. He wanted to make sure he stayed warm in the future.
“You’re going to let him go back to Siberia?” someone cracked. He was provided with a replica of a World War II bomber jacket.
“If he takes care of it, it should last him a lifetime, and hopefully a mighty long and mighty good one,” Jeb said.
The front of the leather bomber was adjusted by one of the campers, John James.