Meet Mark Jones: Experimental Test Pilot & Future Astronaut

Meet Mark Jones- How many people do you know who actually have the job they dreamed of as a child? Not many, I assume. But that is what makes this week’s interviewee, Mark Jones, so unique. Since he was a child, Mark dreamed of becoming a test pilot. Today, he is one.

I first heard Mark’s story via Twitter over two years ago and was intrigued right away, but it wasn’t until another year later that we connected.  Since then, I have watched the way he interacts with others on his blogs and through social media. While Mark may consider himself “ordinary,” it’s clear there’s something pretty spectacular about the way he lives his life. That’s why I am thrilled he agreed to let me put the spotlight on him for Sooner Not Later’s very first interview.

What’s a typical day like for you?

I start every day with coffee (I’m pretty sure that’s what we’ll drink in Heaven.).  After a few hours of quiet time–reading (lots of it), and exercise (especially running)–I head off to work where I actually get to do what I always dreamed about, fly airplanes as an experimental test pilot for an aircraft company in NC.  Not every day is a fly day, though, because a test pilot is an engineer and a pilot. So many days have engineering meetings, data review, and technical writing—all stuff I love. Finally, I drive home and spend several hours with my four amazing kids and wife doing any variety of things: helping with math homework is a favorite, playing board games, and hanging out, and then I squeeze in an hour of hustling on whatever project is next.

What are some stumbling blocks you have experienced on your path to becoming a test pilot?

I’m afraid of failure.

I almost failed out of pilot training because I kept getting airsick. The Air Force invented a special kind of torture they call treatment to help trainees get over motion-airsickness.  That was a major speed bump.

What dreams are you currently pursuing?

I’m conventionally employed right now, but I’m passionate about using my talents and opportunities wisely, in an entrepreneurial sort of way, to generate additional streams of income and more professional freedom. For example, I lead Rose Petal Press, an unconventional team of wordsmiths and artisans, a company which has published the biographies of two Apollo astronauts (two of only twelve men who have walked on the moon!) [Live Your List is about to do a giveaway of one of those bios.]

On a nerdy side, I’m on a crusade to see the flight test world use math better—I spend a lot of time and passion writing about that.  I’m also the lead editor and writer for the Society of Flight Test Engineers publications committee.

And I’m writing a book for my only daughter to present to her in about a year on the occasion of her thirteenth birthday. The title is Worth Fighting For— because she is. That’s all the beans I’ll spill about that project for now though.

What is the best choice you have made in regards to your dream?

I decided a long time ago to accept feedback–all of it—and not just accept it but to actively seek it out. On every single step of this amazing journey, I find that there are people who want to help, if you will ask them. I find that people are a treasure chest of wisdom, if you are humble enough to seek it.  And I’ve found that wisdom is more like a puzzle—each person has a piece to give you, including the critics—but it’s up to you to assemble it. You are the one who knows what the picture will look like.

Do you have any “haters” or negative voices in your life? How do you handle these situations?

Yes—a resounding yes. The short answer is this rephrased quote I heard: “a soldier does not fight because of his feelings toward the enemy in front of him; he fights because of his love for who and what are behind him.”

Find something worth fighting for. That’s how I handle the haters.

What are you most passionate about?

As a Christ follower, I’m most passionate about leading my loved ones, seeing my family (and those close to me) press toward the mark and finish well.  I want my kids to “get it”, to see that it’s real.  I want them to know that I fought, fiercely and faithfully, for their hearts and minds, so some day I can stand before the King and hear Him say, “Well done.”

Professionally, I want to go to the moon and to Mars as an astronaut. I’d also like to be the test pilot on the first flight of some imaginary spaceship that takes off from the runway like an airplane, flies off into space like a rocket, and lands back on the runway when it’s done.

I’d also like to leave a legacy with my writing. I don’t need to write  a “New York Times Best Seller.”  As an author, I’d rather be like a Navy SEAL. I want my words to leave a mark in hearts and minds—one person at a time. I’d rather write a letter to one CEO or military leader that equips them, with information or even  inspiration, to make the right decision, the kind that affects countless others.  If I were to pick one word to describe my writing goals, I would say “unconventional”: You don’t need to know it was me who wrote this or that, but I do want the world to learn that words are a matter of life and death and show them how to use them for life.

I’m a bit of an inspirational quote junkie, what is your favorite quote?

This is one of my favorites from something I wrote back in October 2013.

sooner not later - how to believe in yourself -

But CS Lewis is one of my favorite authors, and here’s what he says that I love as well: “Since it is so likely that children will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage.”

I have one more quote that I repeat when I’m chasing my dream: “Some is better than none.” These days, for example, one hundred words is better than not writing at all. One thank you email to a friend is better than the long thank you note never written.

In honor or the year 2015, if you could hop into the Delorean and go back in time (or to the future), when/where would you go and what would you do?

I lost a loved one in the war in Iraq.  I wouldn’t undo it, but I’d go back (or forward) and tell him thank you.

What are the top three things on your bucket list?

1. Love God and lead my family well is definitely number one.

2. Finish writing Worth Fighting For.

3. Fly to the moon.

How would you finish this sentence? The best thing I have ever done for my dream is…..

START chasing it.  You won’t get there if you don’t start.

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Want to keep in touch with Mark? You can connect on Twitter (@MarkJonesJr and @FlightTestFact) or check out Multiply Leadership (for aviation buffs and technical subjects) and Rose Petal Press Publishing (for writers and those who like to read interesting stuff).

About the author: Catherine

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