Hello, everyone, and welcome to our installment, “Acts of Reading and Writing: Faculty Profiles.” This week we feature Prof R. Eric Jones, Lewis University Aviation and Transportation Professor. Lewis student Richard Mulville interviewed Prof. Jones. The mini-interview, that the Jet Fuel Review editors are also partaking in for the “Meet the Editors” series, is located after the profile.
Robert Eric Jones, though he prefers Eric Jones, is one of those mechanics who works and inspects airplanes on a weekend basis for SWA (Southwest Airlines.) Jones with his clean cut brown hair, standing about 5’10” with his lab jacket on, is a professor here at Lewis University. Jones wasn’t always a professor at Lewis University, he has also worked in the United States Navy as an airframe and powerplant rated mechanic. In the Navy, he worked on LC-130’s,which is a four-engine transport aircraft. Jones was deployed to Antarctica where he worked on these type of airplanes and mostly transported toilet paper and plywood around the continent. After his four years in the Navy, he worked for United Airlines as a mechanic for three years. After his three year stint at United, he heard about new opportunities at SWA where he applied and received the job.
Jones has been working for SWA for 14 years and only works on the weekends now, stating “Yeah, it’s not a bad deal.” He is now a Flight Line Technician at SWA where he looks at planes before they depart. In the event that there is a problem with the aircraft, he decides if it’s a “go” or “no-go item.” Since he has been with the company for so long, he is able to choose his own hours and works around his teaching schedule during the week. He is the proud married father of three children with one of them being special needs. This diverse background shapes a brief summary of Robert Eric Jones.
With all of his mechanical background, it is no surprise that Prof. Jones’s favorite type of book is either a nonfiction or historical book. In Jone’s library, he’d have, “different types of literature, historical, biographies and classics.” And, if he could co-write with one author, it would be David McCullough, a primarily nonfiction author. It is no surprise that Jones would want to work with someone who is also interested in nonfiction historical pieces. Although his favorite books are nonfiction, he does need somewhere to relax when he’s off the job. When asked where his favorite place to read is, he stated, “It has to be the bathtub, because of the Jacuzzi,” which is where he escapes when he’s stressed about working on airplanes or grading exams.When asked about novels and their film adaptations, Jones mentioned that he would love to revisit the film Crime and Punishment:
“The movie was really… bad. The movie was made in 1942, and it was terrible. You could redo that book very well. The other book that would make a great film, although there hasn’t been a movie released yet, is Unbroken written by Laura Hillenbrand.”
If Jones could meet a book character, he would want to have coffee with the fictional character Holden, a villain from the Glanton Gang in Blood Meridian, written by Cormac McCarthy. Jones’s favorite aviation book is Yeager by Chuck Yeager and Leo Janos. This book is about one of the best fighter pilots who ever lived and describes some of the events he went through as a pilot in World War II. This book has had a strong influence on why Jones is now involved in aviation.
Have you ever wondered why literature and film often highlight aviation? Aviation has astounded thousands since the first powered flight took place in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina in 1903. Since 1903, aviation has expanded with new technology, enabling aircrafts to carry a lot of weight, very far, and very fast. With this growing field of transportation, new mechanics are needed, Eric Jones being one of them. There are strict regulations for being an aircraft mechanic, and everything you do can be tracked back to you. “You can’t just pull over to the side of the road,” my teachers used to always stress with me. Being an aircraft mechanic means you need to be precise and follow the instructions word for word. This is a unique field, and an airframe and powerplant rated mechanic is considered the “cream of the crop.” Every day, when working on airplanes, these mechanics risk their licenses and possibly even their belongings because of law suits.
I asked Jones about the writing he has to do in aviation, especially pertaining to SWA. He says,
“Signing off log books correctly is essential. You need to communicate to the next shift exactly what is being done and what step you are on. I never expected to have this writing. I was unprepared for the amount of writing that I do.”
When Jones decided to become a mechanic, he thought it would be primarily hands on work. He was terribly wrong: “I’m used to questions like how does this valve work? I like hard questions.” His brain works in a very mechanical and well thought through way. Jones is a well-educated mechanic. He finished his Masters in History last summer and is continuing to learn every day in the aviation field. Jones lives by the Peter Novack’s motto, “Be fair to all your subjects.” Jones is a very well-rounded person: whether it is teaching, working on planes, or taking care of his three children, he is always excelling in what he does. He is not just a regular mechanic who only does hands-on work, he also loves English and reading literature. Not only is he one of the best teachers I’ve had here at Lewis; he is also one of the smartest, down to earth people I’ve met here at Lewis.
Acts of Reading and Writing: Meet Eric Jones
Q: What book might we find on your nightstand right now?
A: That’s an interesting question. I just finished up my post graduate work last spring and during my post graduate work I did a lot of reading on historical topics and I didn’t do any reading for entertainment. I started to read Don Quixote by Miguel Cervantes. Much of the work I do is technical, so I do a lot of technical reading and technical writing, and historical books seem to be pretty factual. People talk about this book a lot in the academic circle.
Q: If you had the chance to co-write with one author, whom would you choose? Why?
A: There are many I would actually like to work with. I would have a very tough time writing with fictional authors. I would probably like to work with David McCullough, a historical author; McCullough is very logical and a lot of his writing is based on the revolutionary period. My favorite fictional author hands down is Fyodor Dotoyvsky, a Russian author, who wrote the book Crime and Punishment.
A: I like to read, and this is going to sound really terrible… but I like to read in the bathtub. Most of the reading in the bathtub happens because I have a Jacuzzi size tub—this big sauna-type thing. I have three kids, one with special needs, so the house is sometimes too loud, and I go up to the sauna to get away from everything.
Q: What might your personal library look like?
A: My personal library would be a pretty good mixture of literature, including historical books and biographies. I like classic literature. Working in aviation I don’t really have a chance to explore as much reading as I would like to. I really like to read though.
Q: If you could “re-make” any movie that was based on a book, what movie would it be?
A: I’m going to have to say Crime and Punishment because the movie was really… bad. The movie was made in 1942, and it was terrible. You could redo that book very well. The other book that would make a great film, although there hasn’t been a movie released yet, is Unbroken written by Laura Hillenbrand.
Q: What piece of literature can you read over and over again?
A: Probably Slaughter House 5 by Kurt Vonnegut.
Q: If you were invited to have coffee with any fictional character, whom would you most like to meet? Why?
There’s a book by Cormack McCarthy called Blood Meridian and there is a villain in the book who is really creepy, like video game creepy. I believe his name is Holden, the leader of the Glanton Gang. He’s like Freddy Krueger and every other bad guy wrapped up into one really bad guy. My kids compare him to a video game.
Q: Share your top five favorite pieces of writing (anything included).
Obviously number one is going to be Crime and Punishment. I like The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Blood Meridian is really good; anything by Cormick McCarthy is really good. I also like American Pastoral by Philip Ross. Yeah, not really anything traditional and another one, hands down, is called That Nobel Dream by Peter Novick.
Thank you, Professor Jones!