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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Marianne Borders
Director of Operations

Marianne’s passion for flight began as child when she flew GA with her Dad. She continued that passion after college earning her Private, Instrument, Commercial single, Commercial multi, CFI, CFII, and MEI certificates.  She instructed and was a Stage Check pilot at a Part 141 flight school in Florida before flying for Comair Airlines.  At Comair she flew the EMB-120 and CRJ 200, earning her ATP and a type rating in the RJ.  She also has an Advanced Ground Instructor rating and while at Comair taught Crew Resource Management classes, CRJ200 ground school, and was a CRJ simulator instructor.  She took an extended break from flying to raise four children before coming to Aerowood to reinstate her instructor ratings.  As Director of Operations, Marianne looks forward to helping make your flight training experience at Aerowood second to none!

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Megan Slater
Customer Service Representative - Monroe

Megan was raised in Florida and graduated in 2018 with a Bachelor of Science degree from USF. After working in healthcare for a little bit, she realized she wanted something more. When she was growing up, her father, a retired commercial airline pilot, would take her and her siblings to airshows, where she fell in love with the aviation atmosphere. After watching her brother earn his Private Pilot certificate and her sister become a CFI, she decided to follow in their aviation footsteps. She earned her Private Pilot certificate and is excited to share her passion for flying and give the best experience possible at Aerowood!

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Adam McClinton
Flight Instructor, CSIP, Aircraft Manager

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) and heads up Aerowood’s Cirrus Training Center. He also is in charge of Aircraft Management for aircraft that Aerowood manages for our customers.

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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 900 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. 

At this time, he does not take on primary students.  But he’d be happy to help you create a plan of action for your aviation goals post primary, e.g., fine-tune private pilot level skills, instrument training, commercial training, instructor ratings.  Additionally, he’s available for flight reviews, instrument proficiency checks, mock check rides, night currency, and mountain flying techniques.

As for mountain flying, he can provide specialized training in actual mountainous terrain near Asheville.  While you may not contemplate flying into some of those short, high elevation airfields, actually doing so can increase your confidence while overflying mountainous terrain.

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.

Email Jong Lee

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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Justin Beard
Flight Instructor, Tailwheel

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, earned his CFII in January 2020,  and his Multi-Engine Instructor in May 2022. 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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Alec Thomas
Flight Instructor, TCI, Tailwheel

Alec started his aviation journey at Aerowood, earning his Private Pilot Certificate here in October 2016 while he was an engineering student at Western Carolina University. After graduating with his degree, he worked in his family business then headed south to earn his Commercial, Instrument, Multi-Engine, and Flight Instructor certificates and ratings in Florida. Back in NC, he finished up with his Flight Instructor-Instrument certification and joined us at Aerowood. Alec is a Cirrus Training Center Instructor (TCI); he can introduce you to the #CirrusLife. He also is qualified to work with all levels of CFI and CFI-I students, including those who want their CFI-Initial certification. Alec brings professionalism, skill, and enthusiasm to his instruction and will tailor that instruction to each student to ensure that you also fulfill your aviation dreams.

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Marc Lajeunesse
Flight Instructor, TCI

As the son of a professional pilot, Marc has always had a passion and interest in aviation.  After graduating from Virginia Tech in 2012 he spent 7 years on active duty in the US Navy, including a tour as a ground officer with an F/A-18 squadron in California.  During his last year on active duty, Marc earned his Private Pilot Certificate in 2019 in Virginia Beach, VA.  From that point on he knew he wanted a career in aviation.  Marc came to Aerowood and earned his Instrument Rating and Commercial Single Engine Certificate, then completed his CFI and CFII training in Raleigh. He is a certified Cirrus Training Center Instructor.  Marc’s hobbies outside of flying include motorcycles, skiing, camping, and mountain biking.   Let Marc’s passion and professionalism in aviation help you fuel your aviation goals and dreams!

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Chris Hackett
Flight Instructor, TCI

Originally from West Virginia, Chris graduated from The Citadel in 2010 and began working as a Paramedic while maintaining his interest in aviation. He started his aviation journey at Aerowood, earning his Private Pilot Certificate here in August 2019 while continuing to work as a Paramedic in Charlotte. Wanting to continue to pursue his aviation goals and further his career, Chris attended ATP in Concord (KJQF), by October 2020 he had earned his CFI, CFII, and MEI ratings. He looks forward to working with all ranges of students, from those wanting to earn their Private Pilot all the way to their more advanced instructor ratings. Chris is a Cirrus Certified Training Center Instructor, he can introduce you to the #cirruslife!

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Ben Fleming
Flight Instructor, TCI - Concord

Ben began his flying career long before his first official training flight. For his 5th birthday his Dad surprised him with a flight with a family friend in their aerobatic airplane and it left quite an impression. While holding on to his dream of aviation, Ben pursued other fields and spent time as church staff, an audio engineer, and a professional musician.
In 2018, he decided it was time to fly and received his initial pilot training in Sumter, SC; followed by attending ATP in Charlotte, NC where he graduated with his single and multi-engine Commercial certificates, quickly followed by earning his CFI in Columbia, SC. He is also a CFI-Instrument and can help you with your instrument training and IPCs.  Ben is a Cirrus Certified Training Center Instructor, now teaching the #cirruslife at our Concord (JQF) location! Ben’s background in both technical and artistic fields yields a unique perspective on the learning process, which he’d love to use in order to launch you towards your aviation goals! Contact Ben and get started today.

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Chris Powers
Flight Instructor, TCI

Chris discovered his interest in aviation in elementary school after a ride in his uncle’s Cessna 172.  That interest developed into a love fueled by books, movies, and any flight simulator he could get his hands on. He earned his Private Pilot certificate a few years after graduation from Appalachian State University. After a 26 year career in Information Technology, Chris could no longer ignore the call to share his passion for aviation with others. In 2019, he earned his Instrument Rating and has gone on to add Commercial Single and Multi-engine certificates. Now as a CFI, CFII, and Cirrus Training Center Instructor Chris can’t wait to help you achieve your aviation dreams.

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Jonathan Twining
Flight Instructor, Content Creator

Jonathan has loved everything about aviation since he was 4 years old. He spent several years in the Civil Air Patrol in Tampa Florida; his first ever GA flight was in a retired USAF Academy sailplane with CAP. After a degree in music and a career in technical production, his love for flying only intensified. He earned his Private Pilot Certificate and Instrument Rating at Aerowood several years ago before transitioning to flying Cirrus aircraft. After four years of flying, Jonathan felt compelled to make aviation a full-time career, and came back to Aerowood to add his Commercial , CFI, and CFII certificates. Now he provides personalized instruction for those just starting in aviation to earn their Private, and all the way through for Instrument and Commercial training. In addition to flight training, he creates content and media for Aerowood and its affiliate companies.

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Lance Leininger
Flight Instructor

Lance has always had a passion for aviation. He started his aviation career by attending Bowling Green State University, earning his Bachelors degree in Aviation Management as well as his Private Pilot certificate. After graduation, Lance took a break from flying and went to the operational side of aviation. He started working as a dispatcher at Flexjet in Cleveland, Ohio; then accepted a job in Texas working for American Airlines as a pilot scheduler. Still wanting to continue his flying career, he applied for the American Airlines Cadet Academy and was accepted. Lance chose a flight school based in Fort Lauderdale, where he earned the rest of his flying certificates and ratings. Once he completed his flight training, his journey brought him to Aerowood Aviation, where he looks forward to helping students on their aviation journey.

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Chase Costner
Flight Instructor, TCI

Chase grew up in Lincolnton, North Carolina, and always had an interest in the technical side of aviation. After an intro flight with the EAA in high school, he made it a goal to someday become a Private Pilot. After graduating from Appalachian State University with a degree in Computer Science in 2018 he spent some time in New York City working as a freelance filmmaker & photographer. His extensive traveling on that job reinforced his love of being on airplanes. In February 2020, Chase started flying for fun out of KISP on Long Island, but quickly realized it was time to pursue a career in aviation. He moved to Austin, Texas, and earned his Private, Instrument, Commercial Single & Multi, CFI, CFII, and MEI certificates and ratings with ATP. He is a Cirrus Training Center Instructor so he can introduce you to the #cirruslife. Chase looks forward to sharing his passion for aviation with you as an instructor at Aerowood!

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Ashton Lozzi
Flight Instructor

Ashton grew up in Charlotte, NC and always loved flying and going to the airport.  She graduated from UNCW with a double major in Criminology and French but was unsure of her career path.  In the meantime, she became a Flight Attendant for American Airlines and shortly knew she wanted to be the one at the flight controls!  Once she took a Discovery flight, she was hooked.  Ashton was accepted into the American Airlines Cadet Academy and began training in Dallas, Texas, where she completed all her certificates and ratings from Private to CFI/CFII.  She is so excited to help others achieve their flying goals and watch them learn and grow as a pilot!

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Michael Sloan
Flight Instructor

Michael was born and raised in Northern Ireland and moved to the US after meeting his wife, who is a North Carolina native. He always had his mind set on becoming a pilot and after completing a degree in Environmental Science, he decided he was ready for a career change and began flight training in Asheville, NC. He earned all of his certificates and ratings at WNC Aviation, while working Dispatch at the front desk at the same time. He has been working full-time as an instructor ever since completing his CFI and CFII training in 2020. You can always strike up a conversation with Michael around airplanes or ‘football’, his second favorite pastime, although we’re pretty sure he means ‘soccer’. He is glad to join the instructor team at Aerowood Aviation and is excited to help you achieve your piloting goals – all with a wee bit of Irish flair!

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Matt McFaden
Flight Instructor

Matt began his aviation journey out of curiosity shortly after graduating from Salisbury University with a degree in Communications and Business Administration. With the intention of buying books at a local flight school to start studying, Matt was asked if he wanted to do a Discovery Flight. After the initial rotation it was all history.  Matt went back to school to pursue a degree in Aviation Management which ultimately led to his move to Alaska accepting a job as an Aircraft Dispatcher for a 121 cargo carrier and later, a First Officer in the Embraer 120. Matt brings real world airline experience to Aerowood Aviation and is excited to start mentoring and instructing new aviators.

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Meredith Boardman
Flight Instructor

Meredith’s love for aviation started around the age of six when she would go to the airport with her dad, who flew Gulfstreams. There was nothing that captured her curiosity like flying, and having the opportunity to ride jumpseat in the Gulfstream 450 and 550 solidified her desire to be a pilot. In 2020, Meredith graduated from Liberty University with a degree in Aviation Administration & Safety, earning her Commercial, CFI, and CFII certificates and ratings during her time there. She also raced in the Women’s Air Race Classic in 2018, 2019, and 2021. After graduating, she worked as a Flight Instructor and Simulator Technician at Liberty for a year and a half. Recently Meredith moved to Charlotte and joined our Flight Instructor team at Aerowood. She is also a Safety Analyst for a FedEx Feeder Airline. Her favorite part about flight instructing is having the unique opportunity to share the joy of discovering a new passion for flight with others. Meredith is passionate about providing professional and practical instruction, and she can’t wait to assist you in pursuing your aviation goals!

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Harrison McGee
Flight Instructor

Harrison took his first flight at eight years old in his great uncle’s Cessna 205. He has always been very passionate about aviation. While working in construction for the past 17 years, he has had opportunities to fly several different airplanes out of his family-owned airport. He earned his Private Pilot Certificate in 2011 at Fly Carolina, and his Instrument Rating in 2019 at Victory Lane Aviation. In 2020, he came to Aerowood where he added his Commercial, CFI, and CFII certificates. Harrison has now joined our team as a full time instructor and is passionate about helping you to reach your aviation goals!

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Caden Wilburn
Flight Instructor

Caden began his journey flying down in San Antonio, Texas. Once he saw the world from a new perspective on his Introductory Flight, he was hooked. While still in high school, he became a Private Pilot. He elected to further his training and attend Liberty University. After moving to Virginia to pursue a Bachelor’s in Aeronautics, he acquired his Instrument Rating along with Commercial, CFI, and CFII certificates. Caden offers initial and advanced training that will take you all the way through your Commercial Certificate. Caden feels that the Lord has led him down to Charlotte so that he may continue his career. He thoroughly enjoys seeing students grease their landing for the first time and excel to the best of their ability. He looks forward to seeing his students succeed 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 4,500 flying hours; over 2,500 in the Cessna 172, the airplane Aerowood uses as a primary and instrument trainer. As an instructor, he enjoys helping advanced students realize the dreams that await them in the air, taking students to the deep satisfaction of proficient Instrument flying, and (especially) working with CFI candidates — those who would like to become a Flight Instructor. 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, Instrument-Airplane ratings, and add-on CFI certificates (CFI – Instrument, CFI Reinstatement, CFI Airplane add on from an existing CFI certificate for another Category)  right here at Aerowood.

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Aerowood Aviation