A native of Athens, Georgia and the youngest son of Georgia’s aviation pioneer, Pat Epps was three years old when his father was killed in an airplane crash. Despite this tragedy, Pat’s mother still encouraged her children to fly and all five of his brothers and one of his three sisters all went on to receive their pilot’s licenses. In 1952, with some convincing from his older brother, Pat soloed in a Piper J-3 Cub before leaving for Atlanta to attend college at Georgia Tech. While at Tech, he joined the Air Force R.O.T.C. program and received his commission as second lieutenant in the spring of 1956 along with receiving his mechanical engineering degree.
Following graduation, Pat married his high school sweetheart, Ann Hailey, and the two moved to Seattle for him to begin his first job as a flight test engineer for Boeing on the prototype of what would become the 707, the nation’s first jet airliner. In 1957, he entered the United States Air Force and began his primary flight training in the Beech T-34 and his advanced and multi-engine training in the North American T-28 and B-25 Mitchell. Graduating with distinction in Class 58L, Pat Epps flew the next two years as a co-pilot in the four-engine Boeing C-97 Stratocruiser and then the next three years in the twin-engine Fairchild C-123 Provider.
His military service over in 1963, Pat, his wife, and two children went to Huntsville, Alabama to work for his brother, George, as an engineer at an engineering space company. Later that year, he and George answered a Flying magazine ad and became a Mooney Aircraft dealer for Georgia and Alabama. In 1965, Epps established Epps Air Service with 19 employees, a 40,000 square foot hangar, and a 10,000 square foot combined office and maintenance area. Today, Epps Aviation spans 21 acres, employs more than 150 employees and is among the Top 10 Independent fixed base operations (FBOs) in the United States based at DeKalb-Peachtree Airport in Atlanta, Georgia.
Epps’ love of aircraft and adventure extends to his participation as co-leader of the Greenland Expedition Society from 1981-1992. On their seventh expedition to Greenland, the team recovered a Lockheed P-38 Lightning – one of 6 P-38s and 2 Boeing B-17s that were forced to land on the ice cap – from where it had been buried under 265 feet of ice since 1942. In 1994, Epps piloted a DC-3 that was owned by Don Brooks to Normandy as veteran WWII paratroopers jumped to commemorate the 50th anniversary of D-Day.
With over 10,000 hours as a commercial pilot with type ratings in the North American B-25 Mitchell, Douglas DC-3, Learjet and Cessna Citation, Epps continues to fly and perform in air shows in his signature red, white, and blue aerobatic Beechcraft Bonanza. He is a tireless supporter of general aviation providing ongoing support to technical schools and organizations involved in aviation education. Epps is an honoree of the 1988 Gathering of Eagles, a recipient of NBAA’s American Spirit Award in 1999 and the John P. “Jack” Doswell award in 2007, a 2007 Living Legends of Aviation honoree, a member of the Atlanta Aero Club, the Buckhead Rotary Club and an avid backer of the Museum of Aviation, serving on the board of directors of the Aviation Hall of Fame since its inception.
Pat and his wife, Ann, reside in Atlanta. Pat continues to work at the FBO. Their children, Patrick, Marian, and Elaine, all have their pilot’s license and presently work in the family business. Pat Epps’ mother, Omie Williams Epps, summed it up best. “It took my baby boy to get the Epps name back in aviation. Hopefully Epps’ two granddaughters and two grandsons will continue to build on this great legacy.