The Republic of China Air Force yesterday confirmed that at 2:45pm on Sept. 19, its radars picked up an unidentified aircraft flying from the direction of the Philippines toward Japan.
The pilot might have unintentionally entered the nation’s air defense identification zone while attempting to avoid inclement weather, it said, adding that it dispatched F-16s to investigate and escort the aircraft out of the nation’s airspace.
However, pilot was a teenager from Monroe, Louisiana — on his way to becoming the youngest aviator to complete a solo flight around the world.
Between Subic Bay, the Philippines, and Naha, Okinawa, his radio went out and, trying to avoid bad weather, he strayed into Taiwanese airspace.
“I was intercepted by a Taiwan F-16,” Andrews said in a telephone interview with the Associated Press from Louisiana Tech in Ruston.
Was it scary?
“A little bit,” he said.
“But, it was cool to see,” he added.
Andrews said he would have liked to take a photograph, but “I didn’t want to provoke the guy. I knew he could see me.”
He edged back into Japanese airspace and the incident was over.
Apart from getting escorted out of Taiwanese air space by fighter jets, Mason got stranded in the Philippines by typhoons, flew for 10-and-a-half hours through a sandstorm over Saudi Arabia and set three youth aviation records.
He had planned to spend two nights in the Philippines, but three typhoons — two of them category 5 — kept him at Subic Bay from Sept. 2 to 21.
“Jebi and Mangkhut were the biggest typhoons in ages,” he said.
Flying entirely by instruments through the sandstorm’s turbulence was the worst part of the trip, Andrews said. “It seemed like a hundred hours.”
“The highlight was flying into Paris. I saw the Eiffel Tower on the approach — I landed at night,” he said.
On the ground, “I went and saw it all lit up and walked along the Seine ... I was able to realize: ‘I just flew across the Atlantic Ocean.’”
The aviation records are not official yet, but Andrews does not expect any problems being certified as the youngest pilot to fly solo around the world, and over the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
He was 18 years, 163 days old when his Piper PA-32 Lance, called The Spirit of Louisiane, touched down Saturday in Monroe — 71 days younger than Lachlan Smart of Queensland, Australia, at the end of his solo flight in 2016.
Andrews is to submit a fat file of documentation both to the Federation Aeronautique Internationale, which certifies international air sport records, and to Guinness World Records.
“I know I did it. I’ll send them the information,” he said.
Guinness would certify only one record, the circumnavigation, he said, but the federation would look at all three.
The trip’s 180 hours brings him about halfway to the 1,000 he needs for an airline transport pilot rating, but would not count toward his commercial or flight instructor’s licenses, he said.
Andrews said the round-the-world flight raised about US$30,000 for MedCamps, which runs free summer camps for children who have disabilities or illnesses.
He has worked at his local camp three summers as a counselor.
“Almost all was pledged after I left,” he said. “Just in the last week I think we’ve raised the better part of US$10,000.”
“I will be attempting another aviation world record. No details yet, but there are more plans in the future,” he said.
The air force said it is able to detect and closely monitor any aircraft that enters the nation’s airspace, and that it would act on any such occurrences to protect the nation’s territory and public safety.
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