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
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
By the age of 13, Andy Jones had gained
By Holly Dabb
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
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
“There aren’t many who can fly them
because they are so hard,” McClellan said.
“So now we have something to occupy Andy,”
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
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
“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
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
“We’ve seen several crashes just outside
the gates of the airport on Wyoming Highway
McClellan said ultimately, after the Air
Force, he sees Andy working as an airline
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
“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.