Meet-The-Aerowood-Aviation-Staff

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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Danielle Caro
Office Administrator

Danielle has worked with Aerowood over a grand collection of four years; during that time she has learned a substantial amount about aviation and its ever growing community. Having absolutely zero knowledge about aviation prior to joining the Aerowood family, her respect for pilots and their individual journeys continuously expands. She recently transitioned from being the Vice President of Customer Service to managing the flight school and overseeing its daily operations. In addition to her new role she is gaining experience with our maintenance department, Aerowood Service Center, by working behind the scenes in their administrative department. She may no longer be the “face of Aerowood” but her appreciativeness and friendships gained from her original position have been life changing.

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Victoria Riley
Customer Service Representative

Victoria is the Customer Service Representative at our Concord location. Aviation is in her blood. Growing up, her father was a commercial airline pilot and shared his passion of flying with Victoria and her brother. She spent many of her childhood weekends watching and helping her dad fly remote control airplanes with his friends and learning how and why airplanes fly. Although she grew up with a fascination of flight, working for Aerowood has given her the wonderful opportunity to work up close and personal with aircraft and the amazing people who fly them. Victoria is dedicated to making sure that whether you are earning your Private Pilot’s Certificate, or continuing your certifications with us, you are having the best experience possible. She is excited to help make you a part of our Aerowood family, so feel free to contact her with any questions you may have or to schedule lessons at our Concord location!

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Jessica Stevens
Assistant Director of Operations

Jessica’s love for aviation began at a young age when she took her first flight lesson on her 16th birthday. However, prior to entering her aviation journey, she began active duty military for the reserves. Though that portion of her life is something she will always cherish, her love for aviation continued and she decided to return to the skies and make a career out of aviation. Diving fully in, Jessica relocated to NC where she earned all her ratings, through CFI, and joined the Aerowood team in 2017.

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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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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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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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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, 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 is currently working on his Multi-Engine rating. 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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Chase Martin
Flight Instructor

A Charlotte native with a lifelong interest in aviation, Chase moved to Knoxville, TN upon graduation from The Citadel in 2010. His aviation journey led him to earn his Private Pilot Certificate in 2015 at Knoxville Downtown Island Airport (KDKX). Knowing he wanted to make aviation a career, Chase completed the rest of his certifications at ATP in Concord (KJQF), finishing up with his CFI, CFII, and MEI ratings in November 2019. He looks forward to helping students; from those at zero time who are working on their Private certificate all the way up to those wanting to be Flight Instructors. There is always something to be taught in aviation and Chase is thrilled to be doing it as an Instructor at Aerowood.

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Alec Thomas
Flight Instructor, 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. He 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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Jonathan Thompson
Flight Instructor

Jonathan comes from a flying family. His Dad led the way, then his older brother started flying; soon after, Jonathan caught the flying bug. As he started flying during his Senior year at East Carolina University, he made the decision to pursue an aviation career. He completed his degree in Finance while earning his Rotorcraft – Helicopter Private Pilot Certificate. While he enjoyed flying helicopters, Jonathan decided it was a better career path to move over to the fixed wing side of aviation. Soon he had his Airplane Single Engine Private add-on, his Instrument rating, and started building time. He came to Aerowood for his Commercial Single Engine and Commercial Multi Engine certificates, then completed his CFI, CFII, and MEI training in Raleigh. In July 2020 he returned to Aerowood to join our staff and brings an excitement and enthusiasm that will help his students achieve their goals!

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Marc Lajeunesse
Flight Instructor

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.  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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Katie Slater
Flight Instructor, Tailwheel

Katie graduated from Florida State University in 2017 with a degree in Psychology. Unsure of what career path to pursue, her Dad, a retired airline pilot, sent her up on a Discovery Flight, and she knew then and there that she wanted an office in the sky. Katie earned her Private Pilot certificate and Instrument rating in sunny SouthWest Florida, then moved to Austin, Texas where she earned her Commercial certificate in her Dad’s Cessna Cardinal. Soon after, her younger brother and sister caught the Aviation bug, so she decided to pursue her CFI certificate. While working towards her CFI, she spent time flying around in bush planes in Clemson, SC where she earned her Tailwheel endorsement in the remarkable Just Aircraft SuperSTOL. Katie is eager to put her dedication to procedure, high standards for performance, and piloting skills to work at Aerowood, and help other aviation enthusiasts achieve their goals and share the gift of flight.

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Chris Hackett
Flight Instructor

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.

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Ben Fleming
Flight Instructor

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’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

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 ratings. Now as a CFI and CFII, Chris can’t wait to help you achieve your aviation dreams.

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Marshall Root
Flight Instructor

Marshall’s love for aviation comes from his grandfather who was a member of the First Flight Society. Marshall studied graphic communications at Clemson University. After college, he worked as a photographer and graphic designer. He then decided to pursue a career in aviation, and started flight training at ATP in North Carolina, earning his CFI, CFII, and MEI certificates and ratings. Marshall began flight instructing in Phoenix, Arizona shortly after completing his flight training. After several productive months of instructing in the desert Southwest, he landed at Aerowood Aviation so he could be closer to family.

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Jacob Rypien
Flight Instructor

Jacob’s passion for aviation started at a young age. While growing up he would follow his Dad, who is an airline pilot, around on flying trips across the country. He formally began his pursuit of becoming a professional aviator in 2020 at JQF, completing his CFI training in early 2021. Jacob is excited to provide the best instruction possible while sharing his passion for aviation.

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Meredith Trinkle
Flight Instructor

Meredith is a North Carolina native; prior to starting her aviation career, she graduated from college as a dental hygienist. While flying started as a hobby in April of 2020, it quickly became a passion and Meredith followed her dreams towards one day becoming an airline pilot. She enrolled at ATP Flight School in Atlanta, GA (PDK) where she earned her Commercial Single and Multi Engine Land certificates. In addition to those certificates, she has earned her CFI, CFII, and MEI flight instructor ratings as well. Throughout her time at ATP, she successfully completed the program with zero practical test or knowledge test failures. Meredith is dedicated to making a difference in people’s lives and is looking forward to helping others achieve their dreams of becoming a pilot 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 4,000 flying hours; over 2,500 in the Cessna 172, the airplane Aerowood uses as a primary and instrument trainer. With a passion for using aviation to help others, 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, 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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