Califonia Bountiful

It's a bountiful life: High-flying career

Mar./Apr. 2013 California Bountiful magazine

Agricultural aviator Chris Jones says his career represents precision flying at its best.

The Ag Turbine Cat is one of about a dozen aircraft in the Jones Flying Service fleet. Chris Jones is the company's chief pilot.

A third-generation agricultural aviator, Chris Jones says the stereotyped image of a barnstorming pilot wearing a scarf and goggles is far from accurate. His career represents precision flying at its best, the Butte County man says.

How did you choose your career?
My grandfather, Chuck, started the flying service in the 1960s. My dad and his two brothers followed in his footsteps, and now there is me. ... Even as a child, I knew I wanted to be an ag pilot.

Were you nervous in the beginning?
I was 15 or 16 the first time I soloed in an airplane. I think all of us are nervous and excited the first time we solo. I had a good time, though.

What services do you provide to farmers?
We apply materials to protect crops from pests and diseases, but we do so much more, such as planting rice, wheat and other crops, and applying fertilizers. And, along with crop protection, our three helicopters provide frost control by circulating air through an orchard to warm it.

What advances have you seen?
Two of the biggest technological changes for us have been the turbine engine, which is much safer than the radial engines, and GPS, which allows for greater precision.

Does this type of flying require special skills?
Being an ag pilot takes a lot of focus. You can't take your mind off of what you are doing even for a second. You cover so many feet in one second that if you lose your focus, bad things can happen.

Will any of your three children continue in the family business?
I am not going to push them either way. My father didn't want to see me do it unless I really wanted to, and so the same thing goes with my children.


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