You might say that becoming a pilot was preordained for Sammy Mason (@sammy_mason), who lives above an airport hangar in Santa Paula, California. “My mom is a pilot, my dad is a second-generation pilot, all my uncles are pilots and a few of my aunts too,” he says. But when he became the youngest stunt pilot to qualify for the US National Advanced Aerobatic Team last year at age 19, it was due to his own talent and persistence.

While Sammy is quick to note the risks of his stunts—“There’s seldom any second chances in aerobatic flying”—he says learning to fly recreationally is more accessible than people think. His advice? “Stay away from bigger airports. Find a small airport with a mom and pop flight school. If you don’t have much money, most places will give you a job cleaning airplanes in exchange for flight time.”

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