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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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 in 2016 following careers in law enforcement, as a military intelligence officer, and as an engineering defense contractor (supporting Naval Aviation).  As a volunteer pilot (CFI, Check Pilot Examiner) in Civil Air Patrol (CAP), he has logged over 600 hours in the G1000 Glass Cockpit platform.

For the first time in July 2019, the USAF started a program of using CAP CFIs to evaluate commissioned officers for their potential continuation into Undergraduate Pilot Training.  Jong was part of this initial CFI cadre of 24 CFIs tasked with flight and classroom instruction for the USAF.  He has also used his flying skills for law enforcement activities and to support disaster relief operations.  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.

If you’re interested in starting, perfecting, and improving your aviation skills feel free to contact him.  He’ll be happy to help you create milestones and a plan of action for your aviation goals.

Incidentally he’s also a helicopter CFI and CFI-I.  So while we may not have helicopters for the time being, he’d be happy to address your helicopter questions as well.

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Taylor Longwell
Flight Instructor
Tailwheel, Seaplane

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. Most recently, Taylor made a trip out west and returned flying an Icon A5 after earning his Seaplane rating. 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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Rami Amer
Flight Instructor

Rami started flying at age 17 in St George, Utah. He then moved to Phoenix AZ where he earned his Private Pilot certificate at PHX. Life took him to Daytona Beach for his degree in Aerospace Engineering from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, then to Charlotte to earn his Instrument Rating and Commercial certificate before finishing his CFI training right here at Aerowood. Rami works with Piedmont Airlines in the Operation Control Center at CLT. In addition to his pilot certificates, he holds an Aircraft Dispatcher license and UAS certificate. He looks forward to sharing his enthusiasm for aviation with his students while helping them reach their aviation goals.
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David Wasson
Flight Instructor, TCI

Originally from Charlotte, David earned his Private Pilot Certificate during his Senior year of high school. After he realized he couldn’t stop there, he enrolled at Purdue University to earn a Bachelors of Science in Professional Flight Technology, where he continued earning his ratings. He moved back to Charlotte after graduating to earn his CFI and began instructing at Aerowood. Since arriving he has added his CFI-Instrument and Cirrus Training Center Instructor ratings. He loves meeting new people and helping them achieve their dreams of flying.
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Samuel Bareham
Flight Instructor

Samuel’s interest in aviation started at a young age. Originally born in the UK he moved to the US, and it was flying across the pond at the age of 5 that gave him the passion he has for aviation now. His first flight was in 2012, and he completed his Private, Instrument, Commercial, and CFI training here at Aerowood. If he’s not flying his fiancée, Hanneh, around the east coast, he’s instructing here at Aerowood. Don’t wait any longer to make your flying dreams come true. Contact Samuel to get up in the air today!

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Jose Agudelo
Flight Instructor

Born and raised in the coffee region of Colombia, South America, Jose fell in love with aviation at a very young age. Since he was a boy, Jose would spend time exploring his Father’s farm and he was always mesmerized any time an airplane would fly above. His family fully supported his dream and as people love to say in Colombia, “hagale pues mijo,” Go for it! Jose obtained his certificates at SAA Intl. in San Diego, California in 2015. The following year he got certified as a Commercial Pilot by Colombian aviation authorities. As life would have it, Jose met his wife, Maca, through his Father’s farming business. A beautiful love story that has brought Jose to Charlotte and given him the opportunity to live out his passion for aviation!

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Scott Melsha
Flight Instructor

Scott’s interest in flying began very early when his dad picked him up from preschool one day and took him for his first flight in a C-172. “My dad told me to push in the black knob and off we went into the air and there my love for flying was born.” After graduating from ERAU with his BS in Professional Aeronautics while on active duty in the Air Force at McChord AFB WA, Scott began flight training. Scott earned his Private Pilot Certificate in 2005 in Puyallup, WA; the same year he was married and his first son Andrew was born. Scott earned his Instrument rating, Commercial certificate, and Multi-Engine rating in Tulsa, OK. After earning his CFI he came to Aerowood because while renting our aircraft he was impressed with the friendly and professional staff at Aerowood. Scott has served 25 years with the U.S. Air Force and still serves in the S.C. Air National Guard as a jet engine mechanic on F-16s.

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Justin Beard
Flight Instructor

Justin fell in love with aviation as a kid watching movies about flying. By elementary school he was already building and flying remote control airplanes. While earning his degree in Mechanical Engineering at UNCC he met a classmate who had gotten his Private Pilot certificate as a teenager, motivating Justin to pursue his flight training. He earned his Private Pilot certificate at a flight school in his home town of Albemarle. Soon he was making cross country flights that would normally have taken him 10-11 hours driving, as well as flying his pastor to meetings and conferences. With an eye toward making his flying safer and more professional he earned his Instrument rating followed by his Commercial certificate. He completed his CFI training in May 2019 and is currently working on his CFII and Multi-Engine ratings. Interested in long range flying? Justin’s logbook includes cross-country flights all the way to Texas and back to NC! Come share Justin’s enthusiasm for teaching flying here at Aerowood Aviation.

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Ron Horton
Flight Instructor, Seaplane, 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 2,000 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 single engine Private Pilot and Commercial certificates and Instrument-Airplane ratings right here at Aerowood.

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