Meet The Staff

Brandon Atkinson

Owner, CEO
Private Pilot, Instrument Airplane
843.672.4650
brandon@aerowoodaviation.com
brandon
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.

Brianne Atkinson

Office Assistant
980.263.9025
frontdesk@aerowoodaviation.com
Brianne is the smiling face you will see immediately upon coming in the door at Aerowood. She can help you with scheduling flight reservations and flight lessons plus any other questions you may have. Call or email her for anything you need!

Jim Efird

Chief Flight Instructor
Commercial ASEL, AMEL, ASES, Glider, Instrument
CFI, CFII, Tailwheel, CFIG, MEII
Total time 7000+
704.989.6223
jim@aerowoodaviation.comJim Efird - Chief Flight Instructor Aerowood Aviation
Jim is one of the five original Aerowood founders. Since earning his Flight Instructor certificate in 1962, he has logged some 7200 hours in more than 70 models of aircraft. 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 Efird was Chief Pilot of a Part 135 operation and 141 school, and volunteered with the Alaska Air Safety Foundation and Civil Air Patrol. He is currently Union County’s FAA Safety Team Representative. A professional writer before coming to the Carolinas, Efird has written extensively in the fields of aviation and safety, including pilot manuals for many high-end business jets.

Will Farrell

Flight Instructor
Commercial ASEL, AMEL, Instrument Airplane
CFI, CFII, MEI, Cirrus CSIP
cfiwill@gmail.com

Will Farrell
A native of North Carolina, Will remembers the allure of aviation from a young age. The excitement of watching the Thunderbirds and Blue Angels at Pope Air Force Base and Cherry Point with his family are memories he still treasures. Others cherish similar memories, and Will recognizes that learning to fly is a lifelong dream for many people. Whether it is a new student that hasn’t yet graduated high school, or a seasoned pilot pursuing a new rating, Will is committed to helping them achieve their goals. An instructor at the Monroe airport since 2007, Will loves all things flying — especially fly fishing! Will is our CSIP – Cirrus Standardized Instructor Pilot; he leads our staff of Cirrus certified instructors as Aerowood is a Cirrus Certified Training Center.

Caleb Howell

Flight Instructor
Commercial ASEL, AMEL, Instrument Airplane
CFI, IGI, Cirrus TCI
704.984.3135
caleb@aerowoodaviation.com
Caleb-Howell-resize
Caleb is an FAA Certificated Flight Instructor and Instrument Ground Instructor with experience in a wide variety of aircraft from Piper Cubs to Learjets. He has a passion for teaching people about what he enjoys doing the most. It has been proven, that during a blood test, the doctors found a high dosage of flying! Caleb is a Cirrus Training Center Instructor – he can help you get in the air in a Cirrus.

Patrick Blackwell

Flight Instructor
Commercial ASEL, AMEL, Instrument Airplane
CFI, CFII, MEI
803.493.1191
patrick@aerowoodaviation.com
Patrick_100715
Patrick started his flying career in 2006 and earned his Private Pilot License in 2007. He worked at a local news station in Charlotte for 6 years. In 2012 he decided he did not want to do that for the rest of his life; he wanted to fly, so he went to ATP Flight school. In 92 days he graduated with a CFI, CFII, and MEI. Patrick started working at Aerowood in 2014, and can handle almost any student’s need at Aerowood Aviation.

Ian Sleeper

Flight Instructor
Commercial ASEL, Instrument Airplane
CFI
803.628.8324
iansleeper@gmail.com
Ian
Ian started pursuing aviation in 2004 by earning his Private Pilot certificate. After deciding he wanted to continue with Aviation he enrolled at Middle Tennessee State University. While attending their Pilot program he attained his Commercial Certificate and his Instrument Airplane and Multiengine ratings. After earning his Bachelor’s degree in Aerospace he moved back home to South Carolina. He then earned his Certificated Flight Instructor certificate from Aerowood Aviation and became part of our team of Instructors.

Ryan Hubbard

Flight Instructor
Commercial ASEL, AMEL, Instrument Airplane
CFI
980.322.1819
hubbardryan49@yahoo.com
Ryan Hubbard
Ryan has had a passion for aviation since he was a young boy. He has lived all over the country, including California, South Carolina, and Oregon, but has called Charlotte home since 1999. Ryan began working on his Private Pilot’s License in 2007, taking flight training in conjunction with his bachelor’s degree. He graduated form UNC-Charlotte in 2010 with a degree in history and achieved his CFI in 2014. He has a passion for all types of aviation and loves seeing that same passion come alive in his students.

Phillip West

Flight Instructor
Commercial ASEL, AMEL, Instrument Airplane
CFI, Tailwheel
980.428.0043
prwest@gmail.com
Phillip West
Phillip started flying in 2012 with Aerowood and quickly progressed from Private through to CFI. He enjoys helping people achieve their goals, whether it is soloing an airplane for the first time or staying current. When not teaching, he volunteers with the South Piedmont Civil Air patrol squadron and enjoys hiking.

Richard Mendler

Flight Instructor
Commercial ASEL, AMEL, Instrument Airplane
CFI, Tailwheel, AGI, IGI
828.260.3985
mendlerr@yahoo.com
Richard Mendler
Richard started flying helicopters in 2011. After earning his Private Pilot certificate in helicopters, he shifted gears and began flying airplanes. Once realizing that his passion could become a full time career, he earned his Instrument rating as well as his Commercial Single and Multi-Engine certificates. As a full time CFI, Richard looks forward to sharing his passion for flight with others while furthering his aviation education.

Ron Horton

Flight Instructor
Commercial ASEL, Instrument Airplane
CFI, CFII, AGI
Total time 2000+
704.519.6746
ron@planevisions.com
Ron Horton
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). An accomplished aerial photographer, he provides pilot services as a Commercial pilot, and has accumulated more than 1,000 flying hours in the Cessna 172, the airplane Aerowood uses as a primary trainer. With a passion for using aviation to help others, Ron flies missions as a volunteer pilot for Angel Flight and Airlift Hope as well as working with the EAA Young Eagles program. As an instructor, in addition to helping new students realize their dreams of flying, he especially enjoys working with Rusty Pilots — those that have been out of flying for a while but would like to return to the cockpit.

Daniel Biester

Flight Instructor
ATP AMEL, Comm ASEL Instrument Airplane
CFI, CFII, MEI, AGI, IGI
864.230.9762
dchbiester@aol.com
Daniel Biester
Daniel began flying in 1985 in Switzerland. After coming to the United States to earn advanced ratings, he worked in Africa flying Twin Otters and Cessnas with Missionary Aviation Fellowship. He later worked with a Switzerland Flying Club in the shadow of the Matterhorn, and subsequently in the South Pacific flying Queen Airs under Part 135 with Pacific Missionary Aviation. Daniel is an Airline Transport Pilot with Gold Seal Flight Instructor, Instrument Instructor, and Advanced Ground Instructor ratings. More recently, he has been providing Part 91 and 135 single-pilot service to local businesses in Barons and Cirrus.