Lofty dreams

Instructor Jim McClellan presents Andy Jones, left, with his pilot license after completing mandated solo flights.

16 years old and licensed to fly

Starting at the age of 12,

Andy Jones knew he wanted to be a pilot. First

he needed to grow up.

On his 16th birthday, the Pinedale High

School student qualified and was licensed to

fly – in not one, not two but three different

aircraft.

He admired his father Bob Jones, a former

Air Force jet pilot, and wanted to follow in his

career path but pleas to a local instructor were

set aside due to his size.

“Bob Jones came to me and said, ‘I want

Andy to be a pilot,’” semi-retired flight

instructor Jim McClellan said. At the time,

McClellan was staring at retirement and Andy

wasn’t able to reach the pedals or see out of

the windshield.

By the age of 13, Andy Jones had gained

By Holly Dabb

[email protected]

some height. Bob Jones was unwilling to give

up and made another plea.

“Dad used cushions to prop me up in the

plane,” Andy Jones said. At that time it was

the basic Cessna 172 trainer. Even though

a student can take lessons legally, they are

unable to do a solo flight needed for a license

until they turn 16.

The retired – but dragged back into service

– flight instructor McClellan joined Andy on a

three-year journey and flight lessons.

“Jim is a master in the industry,” Bob Jones

said. He worked with the seasoned jet pilot

after he left the service helping him to adjust

to the slower side of flying after years of flying

Air Force jets. Bob Jones wanted McClellan

to also teach his son.

“He makes you learn,” Andy Jones said

of McClellan. “He tells me technically what

should be done but makes me learn by trial

and error.”

Following the first flight, “I knew right then

and there he was going to be an exceptional

pilot,” McClellan said.

Pretty soon, Andy had all the hours and

training required to become a private pilot

– except for the mandatory solo flight was

delayed until he turned 16. At that time, his

father purchased a more difficult plane to

challenge the young protégé – the Husky

A1C-200 bush plane.

“He mastered that as good as anyone on

short fields and rough fields,” McClellan said.

His father then invested in the EA330LT

aerobic plane – the fastest single-engine plane

made.

“There aren’t many who can fly them

because they are so hard,” McClellan said.

“So now we have something to occupy Andy,”

McClellan said.

On his 16th birthday, Andy mastered,

conquered and completed mandated solo

flights in all three aircraft to get his pilot

licenses. Since the Wyoming Department of

Transportation was closed for the Labor Day

holiday, Andy was actually licensed to fly but

not licensed to drive.

His first plane was the Cessna 172 trainer,

was actually the third plane he was licensed

to fly. Under McClellan’s watchful eye he

completed a solo touch-and-go landing –

his seventh solo landing of the day – after

completing three in each of the other planes:

three in a Husky A1C-200 bush plane and in

three in the Extra 330LT.

“He only made me do one in the 172,”

Andy Jones said.

“He hadn’t been in the 172 for three years,”

McClellan said, forcing Andy to pull out his

memory base for the slower speeds needed for

the landing.

That sealed the deal.

“When I was little. I put on my dad’s Air

Force helmet and that was it,” Andy Jones

said, “I always knew I wanted to fly.”

Going forward, the Pinedale High School

sophomore said his eye is on joining the Air

Force.

“You won’t see him out on the streets in

trouble,” McClellan said, not when he has the

entire sky at his disposal.

However, Andy’s interests aren’t limited

to flying; he also enjoys shooting sports and

competes with the Pinedale High School

wrestling team.

Bob Jones, former Pinedale mayor, said

he was directly involved in politics and chest

deep in conflict when he moved to Pinedale.

However, a secure hangar and the friendships

he’s gained at the airport were a refreshing

side from that.

“Here at the airport, everyone was so

accepting,” Bob Jones said. And, that was

extended to his son.

Besides McClellan, Andy benefited from

instruction from Fred Holden on the Husky,

Kirby Hedrick, who took him on long-distance

flights, and Chad Graves, who prepared

him for flying aerobatic competitions. A

community effort, even the Pinedale Middle

School allowed him to do instrument training

as independent study as an eighth-grader.

“All the old guys have adjusted and

accepted him,” Jones said. “It’s so refreshing

to be invited into the community.”

As for risk, “The most dangerous thing

about flying is driving to the airport,” Bob

Jones said.

“We’ve seen several crashes just outside

the gates of the airport on Wyoming Highway

191.”

McClellan said ultimately, after the Air

Force, he sees Andy working as an airline

corporate pilot.

As McClellan, nearly 80 years old, he said,

Andy might be his last student, but he hopes

to see him get his private pilot license on his

17th birthday.

“That’s enough, then I can retire,”

McClellan said. “It’s been good for me and

it’s been good for Andy.”

Despites more than 50 years teaching, “I

have never seen anybody solo three airplanes

on their 16th birthday,” McClellan said.

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