Aviation company partnered with the Charlotte Hornets will use new corporate box hangar at Mid-Carolina Regional Airport

Published 12:10 am Tuesday, April 11, 2023

SALISBURY — With a financing contract expected to be approved for the construction of five new box hangars at Mid-Carolina Regional Airport, a company that has a partnership with the Charlotte Hornets is expected to be one of the first tenants.

Brandon Atkinson is the owner and CEO of sister companies’ Aerowood Aviation, a flight training school and service center, and Charter Jet Transport, a private charter company that provides private flights. One customer of Charter Jet Transport is the Charlotte Hornets; the company offers private flights for players, their families, team executives and other partners with the Hornets. The partnership became official this past basketball season.

“We are able to fly players, players’ families, any of the CEOs there, and what the partnership really did was it gave us the credibility that probably would take 10 to 20 years to obtain. When people see that this is a partnership with the Hornets and see this and that, they already know we’re somewhat of a credible company,” Atkinson said.

Atkinson’s companies’ are already operating out of a 10,000 square-foot box hangar at Mid-Carolina Regional Airport, but the construction of the new 15,000 square-foot corporate box hangar will be able to accommodate more of the services his company provides.

“So we started the process of looking at this and seeing how we could really operate a flight school, an aircraft management company, a sales center and a charter, all out of one location,” Atkinson said. “We’re very diversified, so this will be the first space somebody’s built for us that can accommodate everything we have to offer.”

Before he got in the aviation business, Atkinson, a native of Pageland, South Carolina, was in real estate from 2004 to 2008, flipping homes and building subdivisions. When the Great Recession happened, Atkinson had to switch gears and started a successful scrap metal recycling company in South Carolina called Carolina Scrap Iron and Metal. But away from business, he always wanted to learn how to fly. It only took a quick Google search for Atkinson to fly right into his future.

“I end up Googling ‘flight training’ and Aerowood Aviation populated out of Monroe, North Carolina. I went to Monroe and took my first flight lesson and I was really hooked at that point. I loved it.” Atkinson said. 

At that point in time, Aerowood Aviation was a small flight training company with only about four or five airplanes. After finishing his training, Atkinson ended up purchasing an airplane that he would lease back to Aerowood so the school could have another aircraft they could operate. The next year, Atkinson bought another plane and did the same thing.

He was then approached by the owner of Aerowood, who was also Atkinson’s flight school instructor, and asked if he would be interested in purchasing the company. The instructor’s reasoning was that he wasn’t really interested in running a full-on business; he was more interested in being a teacher.

Atkinson was reluctant at first. Although he loved flying, he wasn’t sure if he was interested in getting in the aviation business. On top of that, he saw that the company wasn’t making that much money. But he couldn’t explain it,  something just kept drawing him back.

“I think it maybe even was one of those God-type things, you know. I was just drawn to it and I knew that I needed to buy the company. It didn’t make any financial sense,” he said. “So Jan. 1, 2014 is when we signed the paperwork and I bought Aerowood Aviation.”

In the next few years, Atkinson got to work growing the company and became a partner with Cirrus Aircraft, an airplane manufacturer company. He ended up officially getting out of the real estate business and selling the scrap metal company and “went all in aviation.” He then included a service center as part of Aerowood Aviation, so customers could get their aircraft maintenanced and detailed.

“My whole vision for the company was how to be that one-stop shop aviation company, so somebody could drop their plane off and we could service it and train them in the airplane, we could sell them the airplane, we could broker the airplane for them, just an all-inclusive everything,” he said.

The growth of the company meant Atkinson needed more room for his fleet of airplanes. He expanded from only being at Charlotte-Monroe Executive Airport to Concord-Padgett Regional Airport and Wilson Air Center in Charlotte. He didn’t want to slow down on the growth he had built since first buying the company, so in 2019 Atkinson signed a deal and bought Charter Jet Transport. Currently, his fleet of airplanes consists of approximately 30 airplanes for the flight school, 29 airplanes that Atkinson has sold, serviced and now manages, and nine jets that are used for private charter — a long way since the four or five airplane company he first bought in 2014.

More growth meant he needed even more space, which is when talks started with Valerie Steele, the director of the Mid-Carolina Regional Airport and the Rowan County Board of Commissioners to see if it was possible to build a hangar that would be able to house all of the services Atkinson’s company has grown to provide.

Last week, the commissioners approved an application for a financing contract that was sent to the North Carolina Local Government Commission to build five new box hangars at Mid-Carolina Regional Airport, including the new corporate box hangar for Aerowood Aviation and Charter Jet Transport, a public safety hangar for the North Carolina State Highway Patrol, and three row hangars. There has been no update on when construction of the hangars will be complete.

“We were really trying to figure out a good spot that we can move into so we can expand and Salisbury had a really good space for us. One thing lead to another and here we are today,” Atkinson said.