Young pilot plans to fly into the record books

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PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - A passion for aviation flies deep inside 18-year-old Mason Andrews of Ruston, Louisiana.

"The first time I ever flew an aircraft I was on a trip to Europe with my dad in 2013 and I took the controls of a paraglider," he explained. "After that, I decided I wanted to get my paragliders license, which I received in 2015, and I started flying that year in general aviation after getting my aviation merit badge with the Boy Scouts of America."

Next week, he'll soar to new heights.

"I was talking to some friends back in Fall quarter at Louisiana Tech and we were talking about the logistics of flying an airplane across the Atlantic and I decided I wanted to fly my dad's Piper PA-32 across the Atlantic Ocean," Andrews said.

But he won't stop flying after he crosses the Atlantic. He plans to make it worldwide. His target date for takeoff is July 18.

"I'll be flying out of Monroe eastbound over the North Atlantic through North Africa, the Middle East, flying from Pakistan to Colombo, Sri Lanka, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Australia, and then island hopping the rest of the way back to the United States and finishing in Monroe," Andrews said.

He said he hopes to earn the Guinness world record for the youngest solo circumnavigator by air. He expects to take 21 stops over the course of about 40 days.

"The biggest challenges I'm going to face are weather issues and the availability of fuel and other resources I'll need," Andrews explained.

He isn't just taking on this challenge for recognition. He's raising money and awareness for MedCamps where he's worked for three summers.

"MedCamps is a charity summer camp in Northern Louisiana for children with special needs and that includes everything from asthma to developmental disabilities like autism and down syndrome," Andrews said.

Stress is high and he knows it won't come easy for a guy 6'6" tall.

"I'm trying to gather all my resources," Andrews described. "I mean, even right now I'm learning things that are necessary for my trip. For extremely long legs, I've spent a lot of time in the flight simulator practicing for that and before the trip."

He actually came to the Sheraton Bay Point Resort in Panama City Beach for survival training with Stark Survival.

"The point of this course is to train me on how to use all of my equipment in the event of a water ditching or landing away from civilization," Andrews said.

He said he'll lean on his friends and what he learned at Louisiana Tech University during his journey.

"Most of the general airmanship that goes into something like this is the same stuff that we're required to learn in the curriculum at Louisiana Tech University Professional Aviation," Andrews described. "That includes flying under a view-limiting device, which basically allows you to only see inside the airplane so you fly off your instruments alone and learn to trust your instruments. That's something I'm going to have to really rely on.

Eventually, he will land in the same spot he plans to take off just 40 days later.

Andrews said he expects the trip will cost about $125,000 since he put in a new engine and factors in gas prices.

"In the United States, fuel can cost between three and five dollars a gallon, but in many places that I'm stopping during this trip, it's 40 to 50 dollars per gallon," he said.

If you're interested in donating toward his trip, we've attached a link to his GoFundMe account.