Meet the Aerowood Staff

Brandon Atkinson
Owner, CEO

Brandon Atkinson is the CEO of Aerowood Aviation. He is an aviation enthusiast/pilot who loves every minute of the freedom he possesses when flying. It all started at the age of 8 when he went to a local fly-in. This was the first time he had ever come in contact with an aircraft–needless to say he was hooked! Since then, he dreamed about flying, but it wasn’t until 2011 that he would actually get to fly in a single engine plane for the first time. As he became a pilot the following year he also became an aircraft owner. After owning a few aircraft an opportunity presented itself to become the owner of a flight school. He accepted the opportunity, and it was the best decision that he has ever made. He gets to enjoy flying and running a business side by side. This is the best of both worlds for Brandon. Aerowood is a growing company that treats our customers as family, and we look forward to you being a part of ours.

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Danielle Caro
Vice President of Customer Relations

Danielle is the smiling face you will see immediately upon coming in the door at Aerowood. She has worked with our Aerowood family since 2016 and has enjoyed every minute being a part of a rapidly growing company. At one point in her life, being a flight attendant crossed her mind; however, life had other plans. At Aerowood, she has been exposed to aviation in a completely different way and it has opened her eyes to a world with which she was not familiar. She has gained a tremendous amount of respect for those pursuing their certificates and ratings and looks forward to celebrating the accomplishments of all of our customers. With boundless enthusiasm she will help you with scheduling flight reservations and flight lessons, plus answering any questions you may have. Call or email her for anything you need, and feel free to stop in to check out the Aerowood facility!

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Jim Efird
Chief Flight Instructor

Jim is one of the five original Aerowood founders. Since earning his Flight Instructor certificate in 1962, he has logged over 8,000 hours in more than 70 models of aircraft. A Texas native, his flying includes 16 years in Alaska, another decade in the shadow of O’Hare’s TCA, and two years flying “both ends of the rope” at a glider operation just outside Phoenix. He delights in sharing the fundamentals of airmanship with people new to the sky. He is one of the few tailwheel instructors in the Charlotte area. While in Alaska Jim was Chief Pilot of a Part 135 operation and 141 school, and volunteered with the Alaska Air Safety Foundation and Civil Air Patrol.  A professional writer before coming to the Carolinas, Jim has written extensively in the fields of aviation and safety, including pilot manuals for many high-end business jets.

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Will Farrell
Flight Instructor, CSIP

A native of North Carolina, Will has been instructing at the Monroe airport since 2007 and is our Chief CSIP — Cirrus Standardized Instructor Pilot.  Factory trained, he leads our staff of instructors in the Cirrus Training Center, and is committed to helping both new and seasoned pilots achieve their goals in a Cirrus. Will is dual avionics qualified in Cirrus Perspective and Avidyne aircraft, and also participates in the Cirrus Embark program.  When he’s not flying, he’s fly fishing…or planning a trip to do both!

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Adam McClinton
Flight Instructor, CSIP

Adam’s love for aviation began at a young age when he worked in his family business in Louisville KY flying hot air balloons. After graduating from the University of South Carolina, he decided to make a career out of his passion for flying by transitioning to airplanes. He moved back home to Louisville and earned his certificates and ratings from Private Pilot through CFII and MEI. In 2017 he relocated to the Charlotte area to work as a full-time flight instructor with us at Aerowood. Adam is a Cirrus Standardized Instructor Pilot (CSIP) – he can help you get in the air in a Cirrus.

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Trey Smith
Flight Instructor

Trey has worked in general aviation since 2004 and started flying in 2007.  His father is a retired airline pilot who inspired Trey to fly at an early age.  Also, Trey is a 1975 Cessna 172M co-owner based at the Concord Regional airport.  He proposed to his wife, Amanda, while flying Christmas morning 2014 in their Cessna 172.  Aviation has been a big part of his life and Trey looks forward to sharing the thrill of flying, the discipline, and knowledge with you at Aerowood.

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Dustin McNeil
Flight Instructor

Dustin, a Minnesota transplant, was interested in flying from a very young age.  His father flew 32 years for American Airlines, and the first time riding in the back of Dad’s plane got Dustin hooked.  He served our country aboard the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis during his four years active duty tour with the US Navy, fueling his aviation drive.  Dustin began his flight journey in March 2015, acquiring his Private and Commercial certificates, as well as his Instrument Rating, in Concord, NC. Having earned his CFI certificate with Aerowood, Dustin is now a full time CFI with us and is ready to teach the joys of flying to anyone with the dream!

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Ben Hawks
Flight Instructor

Ben is a Charlotte native who began his training in Concord, NC – working his way from Private Pilot to Commercial certificate. He then finished his CFI right here at Aerowood Aviation. He would love to help you reach your flying goals. Don’t wait any longer – contact Ben to get up in the air today!

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Alan Osenga
Flight Instructor

Alan began flying in 2014 as he earned his certificates and ratings with Aerowood.  His passion for aviation was sparked at an early age, but really took off (pun intended) when he was 18 years old and became a licensed skydiver – he now has over 200 jumps.  Alan then attended East Carolina University to study Criminal Justice.  Unable to shake the Aviation Bug, he got his first job working at Wilson Air Center FBO at KCLT as a Line Technician while pursuing his flying aspirations.  Outside of flying Alan enjoys playing disc golf, surfing, skateboarding, and sailing.  Alan is a born educator and enjoys instructing while passing on knowledge and sharing his passion for aviation!

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Owen Williams
Flight Instructor, TCI

Owen’s fascination for aviation started at a young age. He had dreams of becoming a lawyer and aviation being a hobby. He took his first ride in a 172 at 18 years old and was hooked. A year later he started flight lessons part time while in college. His passion for aviation had him longing to be in the sky rather than in class. On May 1, 2017 he started full time advanced aviation training at Concord airport (JQF). The following November he earned his Commercial certificate. He continued his Multi-Engine Instructor training at Elon Aviation in Burlington (BUY) and finished CFI school in April 2018. Owen is also a Cirrus Training Center Instructor (TCI), qualified to give instruction in a Cirrus. His favorite days in the sky involve two engines or a grass strip in a tail wheel. “For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return.” -Leonardo da Vinci

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Jong Lee
Flight Instructor

Jong relocated to Charlotte following careers as a police officer, military intelligence officer, and defense contractor.  He earned his Private Pilot Certificate in 2002 and by 2009 had his CFI and started instructing.  He flies for business travel, recreation, and volunteering for the Civil Air Patrol (CAP).  As a CAP pilot he has logged over 450 hours in the G1000 Glass Cockpit platform. In addition to teaching, Jong has used his flying skills for law enforcement activities and to support disaster relief operations after Hurricane Sandy.  So whether it’s instructing, flying cross country, shooting instrument approaches, or just staying in the pattern, flying has been a huge source of personal satisfaction. The common denominator among Aerowood CFIs is our passion for flying.  Yes, it’s a lot of work and can be very challenging; however, the sense of accomplishment and the pure joy of flying is unparalleled.  Jong will be happy to discuss how you can realize your aviation goals – no strings attached.

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Taylor Longwell
Flight Instructor, Tailwheel

A native of New Orleans, Taylor graduated from LSU and earned his Private Pilot certificate in his home state of Louisiana. He then studied at ATP, earning his CFI, CFII, and MEI instructor certificates. Upon his arrival at Aerowood, our Chief Instructor checked Taylor out in our Champs so he can now provide tailwheel instruction. Come fly with Taylor – you’ll enjoy his instruction and his Cajun enthusiasm!

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Bill Grannis
Flight Instructor

Bill started pursuing aviation in the spring of 1973 at Charleston AFB Aero Club between nuclear fleet ballistic missile submarine strategic patrols. While serving as a qualified nuclear submarine officer specializing in strategic nuclear missiles [Polaris and Poseidon], he attained all the ground instructor certificates and his instrument rating while stationed in Charleston; CFI and multi-engine certificates in Honolulu, HI; and his CFII and Multi-Engine Instructor in Long Beach, CA. During the position as Chief Instructor of a Part 141 flight school providing ground and flight instruction for private, commercial, and instrument ratings, he earned his Gold Seal Flight Instructor certificate. Bill studied Physics and Mathematics at the University of North Carolina, graduated in 1968, subsequently obtained a Navy Officer Commission, and retired after 20 years of naval service.  He earned a Masters Degree in Quality Assurance Management from Southern Polytechnic State University [now called Kennesaw State University]. He served 22 years in the Civil Air Patrol as a Squadron and Group Check Pilot, Flight Instructor, Cadet Orientation Pilot, and Emergency Services Search and Rescue Pilot retiring with the rank of Major. Bill has more than 4,000 hours flight time and more that 3,800 instructional hours.  He joined Aerowood Aviation when we first established the flight school at Monroe Airport, and became part of the team of instructors establishing a quality flight training school.

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Jim Phillips
Flight Instructor

Jim’s love for flying began at the age of five, when he started flying with his father in their Ercoupe. He soloed at age 16. In 1973, he  entered the Air Force and worked on a B-52 as crew chief. After the fall of Saigon, Jim returned to the Carolinas, attended college, and worked in General Aviation as a flight instructor. In 1984, he was hired as a corporate pilot for Piedmont Airlines. He was transferred to the Airline division in 1986, where flew until his retirement … 3 mergers and 32 years later. You will benefit from Jim’s experience as an instructor in singles and multiengine, to help you achieve your dreams from Private through Instrument, Commercial, CFI, and CFII.

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Ron Horton
Flight Instructor, TCI, DPE

Ron soloed to earn his student pilot certificate on his 16th birthday in 1966 – his Dad drove him to the airport (he got his driver’s license the next day). He has logged more than 1,900 flying hours in the Cessna 172, the airplane Aerowood uses as a primary and instrument trainer. With a passion for using aviation to help others, Ron flies missions as a volunteer pilot for Angel Flight and Airlift Hope. As an instructor, he enjoys helping new students realize the dreams that await them in the air, taking students to the deep satisfaction of proficient Instrument flying, and (especially) working with Rusty Pilots — those that have been out of flying for a while but would like to return to the cockpit. Ron is a Cirrus Training Center Instructor (TCI). In October 2016 Ron was awarded the Wright Brothers Master Pilot award for 50 years of safe flying; in October 2018 he was named a Distinguished Flight Instructor by the AOPA based upon feedback from his students. As an FAA Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE), Ron is able to administer Practical Tests for Private Pilot Certificates right here at Aerowood.

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