The Aviation merit badge opened up a whole new world to Mason Andrews.
“I remember thinking that it was like driving a car, but with endless opportunities for how far, how fast and in what directions I could go,” Andrews says.
The Eagle Scout will see how far he can go in a single-engine aircraft as he attempts to break a Guinness World Record for the youngest person to fly solo around the world. The adventure, which began July 22, will take him across 22 countries in about 40 days, traveling more than 26,000 miles.
The record holder resides in Australia — Lachlan Smart, who finished the feat in 2016 when he was 18 years, 7 months old. Andrews turned 18 in April, so when completed, he could break the record by 4 months.
Andrews’ attempt is more than the record though. He has a mission.
Andrews has been serving for the last couple of years at MedCamps of Louisiana, a summer camp for children with autism, spina bifida, Down syndrome and other conditions. Campers get to go horseback riding, swimming, zip lining and more, completely free of charge.
He began volunteering at MedCamps after hearing about it from a family friend whose son camps there. He decided his personal endeavor of flying around the world could help others if he made it more than about the record.
“MedCamps is something that’s very important to me,” Andrews says. “Doing something like this, with a lot of attention and a lot of outreach possible, I thought it was a great thing to tie together.”
Andrews’ love for flying took off when he first went paragliding a few years ago. He started taking flying lessons and realized he could turn his passion into a career, thanks to the Aviation merit badge.
“I had no idea that aviation was a career field that a non-military person could get into until I earned that badge,” he says.
He’s studying professional aviation at Louisiana Tech University, flying a Cessna 172, an aircraft similar to the Piper Saratoga he flew for the merit badge.
His flight plan began at Monroe Regional Airport in Monroe, La, as he headed to New York. His itinerary includes stops in Canada, Europe, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and Japan. Then, he’ll make his longest flight across the Pacific to Alaska. Some stretches have involved about an hour in the air while others have taken more than eight hours.
“Scouting has already helped me in giving me the perseverance to have an incredible idea and stick with it to make it happen,” Andrews says. “As a Scout, I know that being prepared is key to accomplishing my goal, but I also know that there will be times in my trip that I’ll be under more pressure than ever before in my life. In those times, the skills and instincts that Eagle Scouts have perfected will be what I’ll rely on to achieve my goal, and I trust those skills and instincts with my whole self.”
Scouting helped lead Andrews to a career in aviation, just as it has many Scouts. In the Exploring program, Explorers learn about aviation career paths, from pilots to air traffic controllers. If your Scout is interested, they can check out Aviation Exploring.