Building a new life together, Jonathan and Janette Mason, of McKinney, Texas, discovered that beyond their love for each other, they shared a passion for flight. Just months after tying the knot, Jonathan encouraged his bride to pursue her 15-year dream of becoming a pilot, then decided he’d like to fly too. In just a year and a half, they’ve both become private pilots with their instrument rating and each recently obtained their commercial pilot’s license at American Flyers. In October, they purchased their own Beechcraft Sierra that helps them build flying hours and has shortened Jonathan’s commute to work. Perhaps the greatest benefit of their journey has been the bond they’re building as they learn the language of aviation as a couple.
“It’s just been amazing doing it together,” said Janette, “learning together, bouncing off the different concepts and ideas in aviation as we’ve been able to accomplish each of our licenses. It’s been very bonding.” Conceding “math is not my strongest gift,” Janette explained “Jonathan is a math whiz” and was able to tutor her on the more challenging math concepts.
“It wasn’t difficult because we were able to spend each night studying at the table together instead of me watching TV and her doing something else. I think if a couple has a big hobby or love together it just makes the bonding stronger” said Jonathan.
“And we love to fly in the clouds together. It’s just very peaceful,” said Janette. “We find excuses to fly. Just last night we flew our daughters around the city and gave them a tour of Dallas. It’s really neat to see the city from a bird’s eye view.” They’ve flown to Silver Springs for breakfast, to Destin, Florida, for the beach. “Sometimes we fly just for the heck of it,” she added. “And every couple of weekends when we don’t have any kids, we try to find a different fly-in resort. One time we flew into Altus, Oklahoma, at the mountain resort. Then for New Year’s eve, we flew down to Horseshoe Bay in Austin for a retreat weekend.”
Where did their dream of flying begin? Janette’s interest was kindled in 2004 when she remembers a helicopter flying overhead evoked a physiological reaction in her. “I don’t know what it was, but there was something calling me to the skies. I really wanted to be a Life Flight pilot.” While she had taken a test flight in a helicopter, her previous husband’s acceptance to law school prompted the family to relocate. “It was never the right time until now,” she said. Then a conversation with a client at her hair salon rekindled the flame. “A Captain at Southwest was getting his hair done, and he said, ‘You know the airline industry is begging for pilots right now. They have a shortage.’ I had no idea, so that’s when I decided to go fixed wing instead of motor wing,” she added.
Jonathan first took to the skies in a powered paraglider. “I like to hunt and fish, and one day I was on a lake and saw a guy with a back pack on and what looked like a big parachute flying around, and I said, I want to try that. So I went out, got trained and bought a powered paraglider. I started flying that way. Then a bunch of my friends were pilots, so I had flown with them over the years as well.”
Having worked for the federal government for 22 years, Jonathan consults with school districts in Oklahoma assisting them with IT. However, he hopes to become a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) so he can teach his children. “I’d like to go the CFI route through the regionals or pipeline kind of stuff until I can get 1,500 hours. That’s what I’m working at doing.”
Janette said, “My next step is multi-engine. Then I’m going into the low hour jobs, work my way up to the regionals then the majors, either Southwest, UPS or American, one of the bigger airlines. We’re both 40, so the goal is to get there by the time we’re 45, then we’ll both have a good 20-year career.”
Taking their early discovery flights elsewhere, Jonathan and Janette completed their training at American Flyers in Addison. “We were flying quite a bit, but just felt like the ground portion was lacking at the other school,” Jonathan explained. “I like to know how things work and why, and the other people didn’t know how to help me. We came over to do an introductory flight at American Flyers and got paired with people that we’re actually still friends with. Everyone was friendly, had a great first flight, loved the people from management down to CFIs. They answered all my questions, so we moved over.”
Impressed by the change, Janette said, “It still blows my mind how these instructors are so knowledgeable. American Flyers gave us the opportunity to fly twice a day, and we were wanting to get it done as quickly as possible. It was also an amazing experience flying at Addison, which is under the Bravo shelf and that experience of having to talk to approach.”
They also valued the guidance given to them by the team at American Flyers as they considered whether or not to purchase their own plane.
“Mitch at American Flyers North actually helped us with some of that information because he knows I’m a money guy and I like to crunch numbers. He told us we would save money by owning our own plane and that’s the thing that we looked into. A lot of people told us that we could do PIC and somebody runs safety pilot while another is working on instrument stuff. They call it working under the foggles, which is emulating that you’re being in the clouds. So for instance Janette would be flying the airplane under the foggles, and I would be looking for traffic and making sure the airplane is safe. That way both of you can be logging time, so it cuts your expenses. I know the hourly rate for a plane, most of them are probably $300 per hour, so it cuts your time in half. Rather than me paying $300 and Janette paying $300 we’re spending a lot less.”
The Masons bought their plane for $65,000, which is the cost of most new cars. The maintenance is more, but Jonathan said, “We’ve gotten a little over 100 hours in our plane and that alone – if we were to do that at a school or a club, we’ve saved over $50,000 by owning our own plane and banking those hours, so it’s pretty much paid for the plane.”
Sharing the journey into aviation has been a rewarding experience for the Masons, but Jonathan admits the greatest challenge is developing trust. “It’s hard for me to trust others. I don’t quite trust Janette with the remote control at home so… I think flying builds trust in each other especially when landing. It’s been a good experience and bond to see her excel and see her land because she’s very capable, and actually everyone we’ve flown with tells me that she lands a lot better than I do. I will master that one day.”
Janette seemed to understand. “I do get what he’s trying to say. For instance, he does not like to be on the back of the jet ski with me. He likes to be the one in control. It’s hard to let go of that control and be like, ‘Ok she’s got this.’”
When asked, who is the pilot in control?
Jonathan replied, “We do legs. One of us gets the leg down and the other one gets to fly back, so that’s how we do it. It’s a partnership.”