INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — Ever wonder what it’s like to fly?
Navy Lt. j,g. Chandler Jones — or Chad, as friends know him — knows exactly how it feels.
“Ever since I was a little kid I always wanted to fly,” said Jones, a Navy pilot. “When I found out about the Navy, I knew I wanted to do that. I wanted to fly off aircraft carriers.”
Jones, a 2004 graduate of Incline High School, has been in the Navy a little more than three years. After graduating from Westminster College in Utah, Jones got commissioned into the Navy, and spent three years in flight school.
In flight school, Jones learned the basics of flying, spending time in different jets and different states. For the first year, Jones was in school in Pensacola, Fla., learning survival tactics with the Navy. After that, he was sent to Corpus Christi, Texas, where he learned to fly. Like most pilots in the Navy and Air Force, Jones learned to fly a T-34 Mentor, a single-engine, basic trainer aircraft. Jones explained that before pilots learn to fly jets, they learn to fly the T-34 first.
After about two years, Jones was in Kingsville, Texas, finally learning to fly Navy jets. In Kingsville, Jones was mastering the T-45A/C Goshawk, a jet trainer used by the Navy.
“I flew (the T-45) for about a year. It’s a single-engine jet that all the jet pilots learn to fly,” Jones explained.
Jones added that it was in a T-45 that he had his first solo flight.
“It was a lot of fun to be able to take a jet out by myself,” Jones said. “That was a pretty big milestone for me, to be instructed with a $20 million jet, and just have fun.”
The pilot explained that while there are some instructions and rules, he often has free-reign to do whatever he wants.
Finally, on March 30, 2012, Jones got his wings.
“Flight school was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done,” he said. “I’m really proud of getting my wings.”
Jones is now located nearly 800 miles away from Incline Village, in Whidbey Island, Wash., outside of Seattle. He is stationed there for at least the next four years, in Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS), a unit of the Navy that trains pilots on the specific aircraft to which they have been assigned.
In FRS, Jones will learn to fly the EA-18G Growler jet. The two-crew Growler can reach speeds of Mach 1.8, or 1,190 mph, and is a carrier-based electronic warfare jet.
While learning to fly the Growler, Jones said he will always have either an instructor or another student in the jet. He recalled his first solo flight in the Growler, with another student, which happened just a few days ago on July 19.
“It’s about a $60 million jet they let us take up and fly, two of us fresh out of flight school,” he recalled. “We’ve obviously done a lot of simulations, but we got to go out by ourselves with a Naval flight ops.”
Jones listed his first solo flight in the Growler as a highlight and sign of progression as a pilot. However, he still thinks of landing on an aircraft carrier for the first time as an ultimate highlight.
“It was the most exhilarating thing I’ve ever done, but absolutely the most terrifying thing I’ve ever done at the same time,” Jones said. “Especially flying up and seeing the ship, you can barely see it, it’s so small, and you realize you have to land on it. (It was) unlike anything I’ve ever done in my life. Afterward, it was something I will never forget.”
The pilot explained that in order to receive your wings, a number of landings on an aircraft carrier must be completed.
While earning his wings was a huge highlight from the past year for Jones, it is not the only milestone he recently reached. In June, Jones got married in Incline Village, to his wife, Meghan. Jones noted that he usually makes it back to Incline Village about once a year. Growing up, he could usually be found in the mountains, skiing at Diamond Peak, or backpacking with the Boy Scouts, or at the beach, where he worked as a lifeguard.
“It’s always fun to go back home and catch up with people. It’s nice to have grown up in a small community and know lots of people,” he said. “I definitely still have a lot of support from back home and that makes me feel a lot better.”