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Meet a Rotorcraft Pro: Simon Jones

Posted 5 years 126 days ago ago by Admin

RPMN: What is your current position? For the last eleven years I've owned and operated Advanced Flight, a small but specialized flight school in Torrance, California, that offers advanced instruction predominantly in the R22 and R44. Also, for the past fourteen years I’ve been a contract instructor for the Robinson Helicopter company's Safety Course.

RPMN: Tell me about your first flight. As a kid, my first heli flight was at an air show in England. It was a short five-minute ride, but I loved it! As a student, my first flight was funny because I got it out of trim turning base to final and ended up flying almost sideways. I thought, wow, that was completely wrong but so much fun. That's when I knew helicopters were for me!

RPMN: How did you get your start in helicopters? The same as most people, I think. I saved up some money and got my PPL (Private Pilot License). Over the next few years I continued doing the same thing: Save, fly, save, fly - until I got my CFI (Certified Flight Instructor).

RPMN: When and how did you choose to fly helicopters? Or did they choose you? I had a good idea I wanted to fly for a living but wasn't totally sure, so I took my fixed wing ppl first, as it was cheaper. I thought, at least this way I wouldn't be wasting too much money if I didn't like it. After that, I thought it was fun but that helicopters might be more challenging. So, I took a heli lesson and that was it!

RPMN: Where did you get your start flying commercially? After the initial standard of flight instruction, I helped a friend start a business that offered an R44 and pilot to local flight schools in the Los Angeles area that didn't have their own. This worked well and helped a few new schools provide a 44 to their clients, but inevitably these schools got their own aircraft. This took me down the road of offering the 44 directly to pilots for Advanced Training, which ultimately gave me the idea for Advanced Flight.

RPMN: If you were not in the helicopter industry, what else would you see yourself doing? I think I'd still be involved in aviation in some way, but I really don't know. Let's hope I don't have to think about that for a while!

RPMN: What do you enjoy doing on your days off? Days off? Actually, it's not that bad any more but when I first started Advanced Flight I didn't get many. Now I'll take Sundays off, and it can vary between doing absolutely nothing and loving it, or catching up with friends at the beach. There are so many fun things you can do in LA, especially during the summer.

RPMN: What is your greatest career accomplishment to date? Probably starting Advanced Flight. I really had no business experience and so everything, except the flying, was new and had to be quickly learned. Eleven years on and it's still going and I've had the pleasure of flying with pilots from all over the world. Hopefully we've played a small part in improving safety and increasing understanding, and if we have, that would be the greatest accomplishment!

RPMN: Have you ever had an “Oh crap” moment in a helicopter? Can you summarize what happened? I got into settling-with-power on approach to a pinnacle at 5500 feet. We had a pretty hard landing and the helicopter was damaged but no one got hurt. Turns out I shot an approach to an area that was getting 180 degree wind shear, from 15 knots in one direction to 15 knots in the other. It was an expensive but invaluable learning experience.

RPMN: If you could give only ONE piece of advice to a new helicopter pilot, what would it be? Always continue to learn and train.

RPMN: In your view, what is the greatest challenge for the helicopter industry at this moment in time? I thought about this for a while and came up with a number of different things, but decided on this: If you look at the statistics for helicopter accidents, it's normally a low percentage that are caused by mechanical issues. To me, this means that you can trace the other accidents to a decision that the pilot made at some point. Even if it's weather related, the pilot still chose to fly. I always try to fly with that in the back of my mind. It means that, for the most part, you are in control of your own destiny. This is a good thing but won't be the moment you forget it. Remember, if something goes wrong today, it's probably because of a decision you made!