A light plane piloted by an American teenager was picked up by Taiwan’s air defense radars while it was en route from the Philippines to Japan last month, the Taiwanese air force says.
The intrusion into the island’s airspace on September 19 triggered an emergency interception call-out by the Republic of China Air Force, which sent an F-16 fighter airborne.
Mason Andrews, who hailed from the state of Louisiana, unintentionally entered Taiwan’s air defense identification zone while steering a Piper PA-32 Lance in an attempt to avoid inclement weather, the Defense Ministry said. It said warplanes sent warnings to the teenage pilot and escorted his Spirit of Louisiane aircraft out of Taiwan’s airspace.
Andrews, 18, was on his way to becoming the youngest aviator to complete a solo flight around the world, according to a report by The Associated Press.
Between Subic Bay, Philippines, and Naha, Okinawa, his radio went out and, while trying to avoid bad weather, he strayed into Taiwanese airspace.
“I was intercepted by a Taiwanese air force F-16,” Andrews said in a telephone interview with the AP from Louisiana Tech University in Ruston. He said it was “a little bit scary but also cool” to see an F-16 fighter.
Andrews said he would have liked to take a photograph, but “I didn’t want to provoke the Taiwanese airman. I knew he could see me.”
He edged back into Japanese airspace and the incident was over.
Apart from getting escorted out of Taiwanese airspace by warplanes, 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, Jebi and Mangkhut, of Category 5 – kept him at Subic Bay for much of September before his accidental intrusion into Taiwan’s airspace.
The aviation records are not official yet, but Andrews does not expect anything to prevent him from being certified as the youngest pilot to fly solo around the world, and over the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
Andrews is to submit a fat file of documentation both to the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, which certifies international air sport records, and to Guinness World Records.
“I will be attempting another aviation world record. No details yet, but there are more plans in the future,” he said.