“Sometime in the very near future, airplanes for two and airplanes for two hundred will fly anywhere in the country every day.”
So predicted Georgian Ben T. Epps in 1910. The first to fly an aircraft in the state (in 1907, four years after the Wright Brothers), Epps went on to design and build six more aircraft before a fatal takeoff crash in 1936.
All six of Epps’s sons and two of his three daughters became pilots. In 1965, son Pat Epps bought a small FBO on Atlanta’s Dekalb-Peachtree Airport and has operated it, along with three of his children, ever since. In that time, the business has grown to become one of the best-known aviation service providers in the country.
An enthusiastic, larger-than-life aviation personality, Pat Epps performed in airshows for years in an aerobatic Beech F33C Bonanza. He also co-led the 11-year Greenland expedition effort to recover a U.S. Army Air Forces Lockheed P-38 Lightning that force-landed while on a ferry flight during World War II. The restored twin-boom fighter, excavated from 265 feet beneath the Greenland ice cap, was dubbed “Glacier Girl.”
Now, the nearly-six-decade-old FBO has been sold. Epps Aviation will be controlled by the Aero Center FBO chain. The deal is scheduled to close within 45 days. But the family legacy is not lost. Aero Center’s parent, SAR Trilogy co-founder Michael Scheeringa, has pledged to be “a good steward” of the Epps history at PDK and will even retain the family name in the branding for the FBO, now to be known as Aero Center-Epps Atlanta. Aero Center will retain all 150 current employees and the Epps-family management contingent will stay on for at least six months to facilitate the transition.
The deal also includes Epps Aviation’s Part 135 charter flight operation and its Part 145 maintenance and avionics shops, both new business platforms for Aero Center. The FBO network also includes locations at Florida’s Lakeland-Linder International Airport and North Carolina’s Wilmington International Airport, with other facilities under development in Tallahassee, Florida; Spokane, Washington; and Casper, Wyoming.