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"We are the protagonists of our stories called life, and there is no limit to how high we can fly."

PHD. MBA. MHS. Type rated on A350, A330, B777, B747-400, B747-200, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration. Fighting for Aviation Safety and Airline Employee Advocacy. Safety Culture and SMS change agent.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Marc Epner

 Friday's Fabulous Flyer

 Marc Epner

Last week in Chicago I had the exciting opportunity to meet a couple of great guys at Aviation Universe. Marc Epner and Al Waterloo, the superstars of Simplflight Aviation Radio. Well, there is no way you would want to miss this team. Today, please meet Marc Epner. The smile is real. The laughter sincere. His generosity abundant. He's also working on a project for Flight To Success, the book. 


"As tough as it is for me to remember what happened yesterday, remembering the start of my love affair with aviation, is no problem at all. Like most of us, the start of my rise to becoming an avgeek, happened at an early age. While there was no connection to aviation in my family, the desire to look skyward was strong.

Before I was 10, I wrote a note to Cessna requesting information about their airplanes (this was long before the internet and email). When the brochure arrived, I opened it to find my first centerfold – the instrument panel. With gauges filling both pages, I remember resting my chin in my hands, with both elbows on the bed, and imagined sitting behind the controls and in control of this very special vehicle. My passion for aviation was ignited.

The dream was put on hold until my college years, where I picked up a job as a lineman at the local airport. Secretly funneling my college money (as well as my first loan) to flying lessons, I managed to fly most days, if only for minutes at a time.

I was a bit horrified to find my lessons were resulting in motion sickness, but thanks to my instructor, who suggested we fly in the calm of early morning, my body adjusted and within two weeks, I was well on my way to achieving my goal. After earning my ticket, I made a deal with the local salesperson to wash airplanes in exchange for ferry time when a plane needed to be delivered or taken to maintenance (I suspect he knew I would wash them even without the deal).

For the next three years, flying became a personal and satisfying part of my life. However, an unfortunate loss of my medical, combined with financial considerations, took the dream away, and my focus and passion shifted to family. I did not look back.

Fast forward 25 years to 2004.

A colleague asked me if I wanted to go flying in his 70’s vintage Skyhawk. With an unexpected uncertainty and yes, even a tinge of fear, I accepted and took my place in the right seat. The panel reminded me of the Cessna brochure and the fantasy trips I had flown so many years before. As the plane rotated off the runway, with my eyes shifting from the panel to the landscape, I remember turning to the pilot and saying, “I forgot how much I love this!” The spark was reignited.

Within days, the medical was renewed, a flight school selected and I started down the road to currency. Soon thereafter, I earned my instrument ticket, bought a share in a SR-22, helped start the well-regarded Leading Edge Flying Club in the Chicagoland area (currently serving as its president), and became a co-host on SimpleFlight Live Aviation radio.

Even that didn’t satisfy my aviation ADD, so I joined with 3 flying buddies to start an organization (Ground Effect Advisors) that is committed to building general aviation by providing an annual scholarship and consulting expertise to people wanting to start a flying club. We were the first, and I believe currently the only organization to provide such a scholarship.

I round out my “spare time” by flying Young Eagle & charitable flights, conducting webinars and speaking to groups about the value and excitement of aviation. All of this is totally separate from my Monday through Friday job of selling software.

Not surprisingly, people (especially those not connected to aviation) usually ask me two questions…. Why & How? The answer is as clear as a CAVU day. My flying in the 70’s was very personal. I was feeding my passion for aviation. When I got back into it in 2004, my thoughts were more outwardly focused. I saw a declining industry and a visible separation from those that were in the community and those that were not.

Have you ever noticed the word Community is made up of two root words; COMMON & UNITY? It’s that which binds us together. Yet in aviation, walls were put up separating the community into those that were “inside the fence” and those that found themselves on the outside, looking in. I saw people giving up on their dream of flight. It was sad. Plus there were self-inflicted wounds from aviation businesses with poor customer service, and with more of a focus on grabbing their competitor’s piece of the pie, rather than delivering real value.


I felt compelled to help tear down those walls and bring the community together, which would “make the pie bigger”, so everyone could win. It was then I became focused on making it fun, making it visible, and providing access. The activities I do in aviation, move me towards those goals, while leveraging my skills as a communicator. As long as my passion and energy for aviation remains contagious, I think I can be successful. Regardless, it’s a blast!”

“What I’ve learned is there are “plane” people and “non-plane” people. Talking to people or sharing a flight is not going to ignite the passion in non-plane people. You either have the spark or do not. It may go dormant at some point in your life, but it is always there, waiting to be rekindled. Those that have it are members of a very special community. Some have it and some do not. I am one of the lucky ones!”

What can we do to support General Aviation?  
Share our love with the world like Marc does.

Connect with the one and only ME!


twitter is:


Ground Effect Advisors:

Leading Edge Flying Club:

Simpleflight Aviation Radio:

Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene


  1. Wow, what an amazing guy. It's so great that you didn't walk away from aviation forever. And now you're doing great things for the rest of the flying community. Keep at it! :)

    1. Hey Christine, Thanks for the comment, and one day you shall meet this amazing guy!

  2. Marc, your passion is contagious! Thanks for this awesome Friday Flyer, Karlene! I really enjoyed listening to you guys on Simple Flight. I wish I could've been on, but final exams are my focus right now :(

    Hope everything is going well!

    1. Swayne, I wish you could have been on too! But next time. You were there in a way...just not in body. Next time for sure. The most important thing is exams are complete and done well as now they are your future.

  3. As a fan of the Simple Flight Podcast, it was fun to read more about Marc. It's always fun to learn more about the folks that make stuff happen in aviation.
    Great #FF Karlene!

    1. Thanks for the comment Brent! I too love to hear where those avgeeks come from. So much fun!


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