Jones, Neil

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    AirportStories_Jones-1_portrait.jpgNeil Jones
    Owner of Quantum Helicopters
     
    Interviewed by Jean Reynolds
    Summary by Adiba Rehman

     
    “I can remember being really obsessed with helicopters when I was in second grade,” Quantum Helicopters owner Neil Jones recalls. Neil’s roots go way back in Chandler’s history, when his grandparents, Oscar and Sadao Jones migrated from Oklahoma to Arizona in 1937. They eventually became cotton farmers in the area. Neil’s father, James started on the Chandler Police force in 1956. Born in 1961, Neil lived in Chandler and graduated from Chandler High School in 1980.
     
    In his sophomore year he obtained a summer job as a flagger with San Tan Dusters. As a flagger, Neil and other boys walked the fields and waved flags in the daytime or a flashlight at night to help planes and helicopters keep their positions. Sixteen-year-old Neil often arrived at work at ten p.m. or two a.m., working eight to twenty four hours, depending on the amount of work to be done. Not only did it teach him a strong work ethic, which he credits to his then boss, Bob Copeland, but hanging around with the pilots made him dream about becoming a pilot himself.
     
    He soon graduated from his entry level position to mixing chemicals and driving the truck with a platform where Copeland would land his helicopters. It was at this time that one of the pilots of San Tan Dusters gave him a ride on a Cessna. The next six years Neil “ate, slept, and breathed aviation”. All his free time and extra money poured into taking lessons at Chandler Air Service till he got his flying certificate. At 18, George Varga Jr. hired him to ferry new aircraft across the country. He also became a flight instructor. One summer he actually got to work as a crop duster which he recalled as the most enjoyable flying experience.
     
    Although he knew how to fly airplanes, his fascination was still with helicopters. At the  time it was expensive for a civilian to get helicopter lessons. When the Robinson Company manufactured the relatively inexpensive helicopters, the R22, Neil knew that he had to “beg, borrow or steal” some money to do this. He finished his helicopter instructor training from Arizona Wing and Rotor at Scottsdale and began working with them in 1984.
     
    Neil worked for Arizona Wing and Rotor for nine years. The company moved to Chandler, fell into financial distress and closed. With Bob Copeland’s training in the background, Neil, with three other pilots and a part time office manager, took the opportunity to open up their own flight training school, Quantum Helicopters. They started small with two R22s, and leased space from Chandler Air Service. It took them four years to get the approval and ratings from the FAA. Around 1997, the business started to show some profit. Opportunity came again when they were asked to use the City- built heliport.
     
    In 1993, Quantum only offered basic training and aerial photography. Now they offer advanced level Certification. They sell and maintain aircraft. They also do surveys, and demand work for newspaper and news stations. Interestingly, they have been called upon to find stolen equipment, missing animals and missing family members. They have been hired by the Chandler Police Department and involved in small aerial pursuits. The majority of their students come from other states and other countries. Fifteen to twenty percent of the students are female. Domestic graduates end up working for them. 
     
    Neil feels that he has exposed Chandler to the world. Some of his students stayed on here because of the weather and lifestyle. Neil believes that the airport has been “under the radar” for many years. It is important to document the airport’s history and promote the airport because he feels it will be a major player in Chandler’s future.

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