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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Allison Miller
Vice President of Customer Relations

Allison is the smiling face you will see immediately upon coming in the door at Aerowood. She joined the Aerowood team in July 2020. 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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Jessica Stevens
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

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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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. Rami is also a CFI-Instrument; he will help you earn the coveted and useful Instrument Rating. He looks forward to sharing his enthusiasm for aviation with his students while helping them reach their aviation goals.
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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, CFI, and CFII training here at Aerowood. Samuel is a certified Cirrus Training Center Instructor, he can help you learn to fly the most technologically advanced General Aviation aircraft in our fleet. If he’s not flying his wife, 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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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, 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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Tavis Lipp
Flight Instructor, TCI

Tavis’ passion for aviation was seeded at a young age when a family friend of his Dad took him up in a Cherokee out of Wilgrove Air Park (8A6) and let Tavis take the yoke. It started a love for the air that he then pursued in 2016, acquiring his Private Pilot certificate right here at Aerowood. At first he only had intentions of flying being a hobby. After a two year break, he decided to take on aviation as a career. Tavis earned his Instrument Rating and Commercial, CFI, CFII, and MEI certificates at ATP in Concord. Also a Cirrus Certified Training Center Instructor (TCI), Tavis can provide instruction in the most advanced General Aviation aircraft in our fleet. His goal is to move on to bigger and faster planes, but for now he enjoys flying general aviation and smaller aircraft. Let Tavis show you how to share in the fun!

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Emily Cwian
Flight Instructor

Emily has been involved in general aviation since she was a kid. Her parents and grandparents built their own planes and she learned to fly on her grandpa’s 2200’ grass strip located on the Fox River in rural Illinois. Emily moved to the Carolinas with her family in 2014, and after graduating high school she worked for a year before enrolling in ATP flight school where she earned all her ratings.
Having enjoyed the journey from her first solo to where she is now, Emily came to Aerowood to gain experience flying many different types of planes. She loves the familial atmosphere of the work environment here and has found it to be very rewarding, thanks to both her coworkers and her students. Emily’s goals are to eventually move on to work in the airlines and hopefully fly as First Officer for her Dad sometime down the road. She states: “Wherever my path takes me, I know I’ll always have a love for general aviation and stick with it throughout my life.” Whether you are looking for single or multiengine training; Private, Commercial, or Instrument; let Emily share her love for aviation as she helps you achieve your aviation goals.

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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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Alan Osenga
Flight Instructor

Alan began flying in 2014 as he earned his ratings and certifications 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 with 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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Carson Lineback
Flight Instructor, Tailwheel

Carson is a third generation pilot, immersed in aviation since his first birthday. His solo in 2015 was in a Super Cub and he has always favored airplanes with conventional gear; the majority of his logbook is filled with tailwheel time. He graduated from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill in 2017, marking the longest time he spent on the ground. He also earned his Private certificate in Gliders, an experience that helps him as he instructs in powered aircraft. Carson is our newest CFI and specializes in Tailwheel instruction. Contact him to broaden your aviation horizons.

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Alec Thomas
Flight Instructor

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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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, 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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