Southern California’s first air show of the year takes place some thirty five miles east of Los Angeles in the town of Upland, at Cable Airport. January 13 & 14 were the dates for this year’s show, our weather is often “nice” this time of the year. This year was an exception, the Weather Gods gave us a double portion and the weather was “Fantastic” eighty degrees and no wind for both days. This is already starting to sound possessive, yes, for thirty five years I have called this airport home. It is not uncommon for us to have a “Great Performer” in our show. It is a chance for some of the Pro’s to try out there new stuff before hitting the ”Big Time”, Cable Airport is presently home to a couple of great ones. In our 2012 show we were privileged to watch what I believe is the beginning of a great Air show performer, Sam Mason is seventeen years old and he is flying a 275 HP Jacobs Stearman (why would that get my attention) it is very possible this young man might be the youngest air show pilot in the world. The fact that he was born with a special gene and airplanes were being injected into his blood stream at three days of age helped influence his life I am sure. Yes, his mother took him for a ride in her J-3 Cub, when he was three days old…what a beginning! Most pilots have never been in a Cub.
Sam’s acrobatic routine was nice and clean and included all of the required maneuvers. His Loops and Rolls were right on; the Barrel Roll and Half Cuban were great and on to the Hammer Head and so on. His landings were spot on. Then he would roll down the runway, looking and waving at the crowd. We all know that when you fly a Stearman it can be tricky on the runway, until it is tied down. This guy does not even appear to be looking down the runway and that Stearman is running straight. At age seventeen, that’s awesome! Sam, as he likes to be called, (most of us old guys still think of him as Sammy,) soloed a glider at age fourteen, the youngest age for that feat.
He received his motor powered glider license and Aerobatic Competency Card at age sixteen. His sixteenth birthday was a “Big Deal; he soloed ten, yes, Ten airplanes in one day. He started the day with his dad’s 450 Stearman;, next came his mother’s 90 HP Cub. The only ones I see on the list that you might expect are Cessna 150 & 172. Others were a Scout and a PA-11. The last two there is no check out, since they only have one seat – a Mooney Mite and the big one, his dad’s AG Cat.
Sam has two very special parents: Pete and Rowena Mason, who are both pilots. They are based at the Santa Paula Airport, a great spot for antique airplanes in California. He also has a famous Grandfather, I’ll get to him in a bit. His dad Pete also soloed, a Cessna 170 and a Bell 47 on his sixteenth birthday. He went on to be an ATP, an aerobatics flight instructor and fly for Lockheed; he also has been towing banners with his 450 for thirty years.
His mother Rowena is the exceptional one. In addition to all of the scheduled and unscheduled things a mother does, she flies her Cub and her own 275 HP Jacobs Stearman plus operates a full time fabric covering business and home schools Sam.
Sam’s grandfather was a household name starting in the late 40’s as part of the Hollywood Hawks flying a 450 Stearman named “Checkers” Its unusual checkerboard paint scheme made it instantly recognizable. It was featured on the cover of an old SRA Outfit magazine (You can see it in the back cover of this magazine). Sammy Mason owned the first recorded Model 75 to perform in a professional air show in 1945. He owned the first Stearman modified to a R-985 Pratt and Whitney engine. (Kenneth D. Wilson Collection)
It was a thrill to watch Sam perform and a delight to talk with him. He helped restore my trust in our future. I trust you will agree with me.