Now, This is Truly a World-Class Extracurricular Activity

By Rajkamal Rao  

With Mason Andrews, World-Record Holder for Youngest Solo Pilot to Circumnavigate the Globe. Image Credit: Rao Advisors LLC.

Extracurricular activities have come to define what college admissions officials say they look for in a high school student when they conduct a "Holistic Profile" evaluation.  For more on this, please read our blog post from Sep 2018.

On Oct 4,  I was privileged to meet Mason Andrews, who is all of 18 years and 4 months old!  His claim to fame is that he will shortly enter the Guinness book of World Records for the youngest solo flight around the world in a single-engine plane.  And for the youngest person to fly solo across the Atlantic and the Pacific.

Mason's Dual Extra Curricular Activities

To be fair, he was not a high school student when he completed the adventure, although, he was one when he started planning the trip.

Mason's interests in flying started about 5 years ago.  When he was 13, he went to Europe on a family vacation.  He took a paragliding flight and fell in love with it.  By the time he was 14, he already had a paragliding license.

Back in Monroe, Louisiana, he started practicing flying on a simulator at home.  And he began flying with his dad in his Piper single engine 6-seater aircraft racking up nearly 300 flight hours in just a few years.

When he was 15, he learned of an organization called Medcamps which helps children who are mentally or physically disabled attend summer camp.  He began to volunteer there even as he continued to pursue flying as a hobby.

When he was 17, he had already earned all FAA certifications including those coveted instrument ratings.  This is when he dreamed up a plan to take his Piper around the world to raise awareness and funds for the Medcamps charity.  He had to have his plane modified by having extra fuel tanks installed in the place of two rear seats.  This extended his range to 11 hours of flying.  Remember, Piper planes don't go that fast, nor do they fly so high.

His adventure took a little over 2 months and nineteen stops.  He told me he spent 180 hours flying his plane.  I asked him about his scariest experience.  When flying over the Bay of Bengal from India's southern coast to Malaysia, he got hit by hailstorms so strong that the ice chipped away parts of the elevator on his wings.

He also said that while he was flying between mountains in Siberia, things got so cold that he had to drop to 4,000 ft just so that he could keep relatively warm.  These are unbelievable experiences for anyone, let alone for a young man.

Our Takeaways

Mason has demonstrated several attributes - a commitment and passion to flying, leadership (promoting a charity while simultaneously doing what he loves) and not only caring for those who are not as lucky as the rest of us but doing something about it (by raising awareness and tens of thousands of dollars in funds).  Medcamps would probably have never gotten so much TV and print news coverage around the world were it not for Mason.  He even had the Medcamps logo emblazoned on his plane.

Mason's Piper at the Executive Airport in Dallas, TX. Image Credit: Rao Advisors LLC

Mason could probably have gained admission to all 8 Ivy League schools and performed the "Ivy Sweep".   Instead, he enrolled in Louisiana Tech where he will earn a degree related to flying.

This is what extracurricular activities are all about.

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