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.

Danielle Caro

Office Assistant
980.263.9025
frontdesk@aerowoodaviation.com

Danielle
Danielle is the smiling face you will see immediately upon coming in the door at Aerowood. She is currently pursuing a career as a kindergarten teacher while studying at South Piedmont Community College. 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 licenses 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 on in to check out the Aerowood facility!

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 Chief 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, CFII, IGI, Cirrus CSIP
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 CSIP – Cirrus Standardized Instructor Pilot – he can help you get in the air in a Cirrus.

Ian Sleeper

Flight Instructor
Commercial ASEL, Instrument Airplane
CFI, CFII
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 from 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, CFII, Tailwheel, Cirrus TCI
980.428.0043
phillip@aerowoodaviation.com
Phillip West
Phillip started flying in 2012 with Aerowood and quickly progressed from Private through to CFII. 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. Phillip is a Cirrus Training Center Instructor – he can help you get in the air in a Cirrus.

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.

Gary Moore

Flight Instructor
Commercial ASEL, AMEL, Instrument Airplane
CFI, CFII, MEI, Tailwheel
704.796.1793
glmoorefly@gmail.com
Gary Moore
After first flying at the age of 5 in the front seat of a J3 Cub, Gary waited a little longer to really learn to fly, obtaining his pilot’s license in 2000. He continued to fly periodically while working in management before diving into the aviation world. In 2015 he obtained his Instrument, Commercial and CFI certificates, and began instructing full time that year. He added CFII and MEI in 2016. He serves as a mission pilot with the Civil Air Patrol. Gary enjoys cycling and flying from his home base in Concord with his wife where they have lived since 2002.

Bill Grannis

Flight Instructor
Commercial ASEL, AMEL, Instrument Airplane
CFI, CFII, MEI, AGI, IGI, Gold Seal Flight Instructor
Total time 4000+
803.230.1373
lostcomm7600@comporium.net
Bill Grannis
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 certificate 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.

Jong Lee

Flight Instructor
Commercial ASEL, AMEL, Instrument Airplane
CFI, CFII, MEI, Fixed Wing and Helicopter
732.245.3834
lee@aerowoodaviation.com
Jong Lee
Jong relocated to Charlotte following careers as a police officer, military intelligence officer, and defense contractor. He earned his Private Pilot License in 2002 and by 2009 had his CFI and started instructing. He flies for business travel, recreation, and volunteering for the Civil Air Patrol (CAP). As a CAP pilot he has logged over 450 hours in the G1000 Glass Cockpit platform. In addition to teaching, Jong has used his flying skills for law enforcement activities and to support disaster relief operations after Hurricane Sandy. 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. The common denominator among Aerowood CFIs is our passion for flying. Yes, it’s a lot of work and can be very challenging; however, the sense of accomplishment and the pure joy of flying is unparalleled. Jong will be happy to discuss how you can realize your aviation goals – no strings attached.

Ron Horton

Flight Instructor
Commercial ASEL, Instrument Airplane
CFI, CFII, AGI, Gold Seal Flight Instructor, Cirrus TCI
Total time 2300+
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 1,500 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. In October 2016 Ron was awarded the Wright Brothers Master Pilot award for 50 years of safe flying. Ron 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.

Peter Malec

Flight Instructor
ATP AMEL, Commercial ASEL & AMEL, Instrument Airplane
CFI, CFII, MEI
704.258.8924
peter@aerowoodaviation.comPeter Malec
Peter has lived in the Charlotte area for 20+ years. He is a graduate of UNC Charlotte and has a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice. He started his career in law enforcement in the Charlotte area and was there for nearly 5 years. During those 5 years, he had the opportunity to do a little flying and he loved it. During his last year in law enforcement, he had the opportunity to start flight training full time and obtain all ratings/instructor ratings at ATP flight school in Concord, NC. He was fortunate to begin instructing in 2012 at Aerowood Aviation. In late 2012 he was able to make the career conversion from law enforcement to aviation and he has not looked back.