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About Our Team

Tampa Bay Aviation

World Class Instructors & Staff

Unlike other flight schools, Tampa Bay Aviation offers twice the amount of aircraft and instructors which allows for better flexibility in your schedule to train and build up the flight hours that you need to attain your license. You’ll find that our highly professional culture is very friendly, approachable, and sociable, giving you the ability to feel at ease as you complete your training.

Laura Taylor

Founder, Airplane Pilot, C-SIP

Laura Taylor has been a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI, CFII, MEI) in airplanes since 2006. She comes from a family of pilots and grew up around aviation, which fueled her passion. Laura and her husband, Zack, opened up the flight school in March of 2012 and have truly enjoyed growing the company to where it stands today and introducing hundreds of new people to aviation. Laura has completed the Cirrus Factory training to become a Cirrus Instructor (CSIP) and enjoys transitioning people in our SR22 or SR20, or their own aircraft. In addition to flight instructing, Laura also enjoys flying as a contract pilot in a King Air 350, Challenger 604/605, and Citations. When not flying, Laura enjoys spending time with her husband and two sons and being on the water.

Laura has the following ratings:
• Commercial: Single/Multi Engine Land & Sea
• Airline Transport Pilot: Fixed Wing
• Certified Flight Instructor: Fixed Wing CFI, CFII, MEI

Zack Taylor

Founder, Chief Helicopter Pilot, Helicopter Charter Pilot

Zack currently oversees Tampa Bay Aviation’s part 61 and part 141 helicopter flight school as chief helicopter instructor. His previous experience includes flying Eurocopters for AirLife in Florida and Georgia as well as Bell Helicopters in the Gulf of Mexico to oil platforms. Zack’s extensive experience and knowledge with helicopters drives Tampa Bay Aviation’s helicopter flight school to exceed expectations and continue to grow into a prestigious establishment.

Zack has the following ratings:
• Airline Transport Pilot: Helicopter
• Certified Flight Instructor: Helicopter CFI, CFII
• Commercial: Single Engine Land

Chief and Assistant Chief Pilots

Jason Paul

jason paul

Chief Fixed-Wing Pilot

Bio coming soon.

Dennis Berghuijs

Assistant Chief Helicopter Instructor, Helicopter Tour Pilot, Helicopter and Fixed-Wing Charter Pilot

Dennis Berghuijs, originally from The Netherlands, moved to Florida in 2013 to pursue a career in the aviation industry. After successfully completing the FAA and EASA pilot programs, he became an active Certified Flight Instructor in 2014 and joined Tampa Bay Aviation in 2016. In addition to instruction, Dennis does Tour, Photography and Charter flights.

Dennis has the following ratings:

  • Commercial: Helicopter
  • Airline Transport Pilot: Helicopter
  • Certified Flight Instructor: Helicopter CFI, CFII
  • Ground Instructor: Advanced
  • Commercial: Airplane Single Engine Land
  • Certified Flight Instructor: Fixed Wing CFI, CFII
  • Cirrus:  TCI
ISAIAH KARSEN

Isaiah Karsen

Airplane Flight Instructor

Isaiah was born and raised in Michigan. He attended North Western Michigan college where he earned his pilot ratings up to commercial license. During his commercial check ride process he had come down to Florida to fly (better weather) and finished his commercial, CFI, CFII, and MEI ratings. Isaiah was hired directly from our CFI class when a spot opened up. His goal is to earn his hours and work for a regional airline or a cargo company.

Isaiah has the following ratings:

  • Commercial: Airplane Single Engine Land, Multi Engine Land
  • Certified Flight Instructor: Airplane CFI, CFII, MEI

Josh Montour

Helicopter Instructor, Helicopter Tour Pilot

Josh was born in Vermont and then went on to attend Southern Utah University. Josh trained in Cedar City, UT where he worked through all of his helicopter ratings. He would like to work as an EMS pilot and then work his way up to fire/utility flying!

Josh Montour has the following ratings:

  • Commercial: Helicopter
  • Flight Instructor: Helicopter CFI, CFII

Airplane Instructors

Mike Longnecker

Tony Johnstone

Aerobatic Airplane Flight Instructor

Tony Johnstone, MD, has been flying since high school in 1967.  He has been instructing aerobatics and tailwheel since 2003 and has given over 2000 hours of dual in his Super Decathlon.  Tony also holds a CFII, MEI, ATP with 2 type ratings in jets, Commercial Seaplane and Glider ratings, and has been in the past designated Master CFI-Aerobatic.  He is a FAASTEAM rep with the Tampa FSDO and a retired general surgeon who practiced in Canada and then Kansas for a total of 30 years.  Tony worked as a demo/transportation pilot for Cessna in Wichita following his retirement from surgery.

Tony has the following ratings:

  • ATP: Airplane Multi-Engine Land
  • Type Rating:  C525, C560XLS
  • Commercial: Airplane Single Engine Land, Multi-Engine Land, Single Engine Seaplane, Glider
  • Certified Flight Instructor: Airplane CFI, CFII, MEI
  • Ground Instructor: Advanced
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Ben Phillips

Airplane Flight Instructor

Born in Cincinnati Ohio, Ben’s first flight was at 6 months old with his father flying a helicopter. Ben started training in Ohio and quickly moved to Tampa Bay Aviation to escape the weather. He finished his private license and continued thru his certified flight instructor instrument rating here. Ben is excited to help others on their path. His long-term goals include a job in the airline industry.

Ben has the following ratings:

  • Commercial: Airplane Single Engine Land, Multi Engine Land
  • Certified Flight Instructor: Airplane CFI,CFII
Shelby Taylor

Shelby Taylor

Airplane Flight Instructor

Shelby was born and raised in the Twin Cities of Minnesota and as a young girl from a family with an aviation background, discovered an interest in getting her pilot’s license. It wasn’t until later in life after graduating from Winona State University with degrees in Spanish and Recreation & Tourism, that she took a discovery flight and left her full-time desk job behind. After diving into aviation and completing her training at Lake Superior College in Duluth, MN, Shelby is excited to take her passion to the sunny skies of Florida and help students achieve their flying goals.

Shelby has the following ratings:

  • Commercial: Airplane Single Engine Land, Airplane Multi-Engine Land
  • Certified Flight Instructor: Airplane CFI, CFII
Audrey Kellogg

Audrey Kellogg

Airplane Flight Instructor

Audrey graduated from the University of Central Florida with a B.S. in Psychology. She previously traveled the world as a flight attendant before deciding to pursue a career as a pilot. As a former flight attendant instructor, she has a passion for teaching and is dedicated to helping her students achieve their flying goals. In her spare time she enjoys playing volleyball, scuba diving, and hiking with her pups.

Audrey has the following ratings:

  • Commercial: Airplane Single Engine Land, Multi-Engine Land
  • Certified Flight Instructor: Airplane CFI, CFII, MEI
Kiro Gerges Flight Instructor

Kirolos Gerges

Airplane Flight Instructor

Born in Alexandria, Egypt, Kiro had a dream of becoming a pilot from a very young age. His family moved to Bayonne, NJ when Kiro turned ten years old. A few years later they decided that Florida may be a better fit for their family as they all greatly disliked the cold weather and had better job opportunities in Tampa Bay area. After graduating from Palm Harbor University high school, Kiro attended St. Petersburg Community College for Aerospace to start his career in aviation. One year later Kiro got into Tampa Bay Aviation and started working towards his private pilot license. The journey he experienced had its ups and downs yet he made it out and graduated in 2021 with all the certifications he desired and finally started living out the beginning of his dream. Away from aviation, Kiro spends his time traveling and making quality memories with family and friends.

Kiro has the following ratings:

  • Commercial: Airplane Single Engine Land, Multi-Engine Land
  • Certified Flight Instructor: Airplane CFI, CFII, MEI
Anthony Brunke airplane instructor

Anthony Brunke

Airplane Flight Instructor

Anthony Brunke is a Certified Flight Instructor for airplanes with two additional ratings (CFII and MEI). He spent eight years in the United States Marine Corps where he worked very closely with tactical aircraft, which is where his interest in aviation began. After completing his time in the Marine Corps, Anthony moved back to Maryland where he attended the University of Maryland and earned a B.S. in Kinesiology. Then he moved to the Tampa Bay area to begin his career in aviation.

Anthony has the following ratings:

  • Commercial: Airplane Single Engine Land/Multi-Engine Land
  • Instructor: Airplane CFI, CFII, and MEI
Casey Jones Flight Instructor

Casey Jones

Airplane Flight Instructor

Casey is a 3rd generation pilot from Palm Harbor, Florida, who dreams of becoming a major airline pilot. He graduated from Florida State University in 2020 with a degree in Environmental Science and a minor in Biology. When Casey isn’t flying, he is playing super smash bros with the guys or making unnecessarily complicated dinners for his girlfriend and their dog, Peanut. Casey can’t wait to introduce his students to all of the best parts of general aviation and help lead them toward their aeronautical goals!

Casey has the following ratings:

  • Commercial: Airplane Single Engine Land
  • Instructor: Airplane CFI, CFII
Michael Palella Flight instructor

Michael Palella

Airplane Flight Instructor

Born and raised on the New Jersey shore, Michael could be found growing up surfing the beaches in the summer and competitively snowboarding in the Catskills Mountains in the winter. 1st generation pilot, Michael found his love for aviation after graduating Cum Laude from Augsburg University in Minneapolis with a major in finance and minor in prelaw. Michael moved to Tampa to pursue his career in aviation. Michael’s goal is to fly private and corporate jet operations around the world.

Michael has the following ratings:

  • Commercial: Airplane Single Engine Land; Multi-Engine Land
  • Instructor: Airplane CFI, CFII, MEI
Jon Alter Flight instructor

Jon Alter

Airplane Flight Instructor

Jon was born in Poughkeepsie, NY and raised in the Tampa Bay Area. He attended the University of South Florida where he earned a bachelor’s degree, and soon after entered the corporate world. After a few years, he decided a desk job wasn’t for him and jumped into aviation. When he’s not flying, you can find him playing golf, watching his favorite sports teams, or hanging in the pool. Jon is looking forward to helping students achieve their aviation goals!

Jon has the following ratings:

  • Commercial: Airplane Single Engine Land; Multi-Engine Land
  • Instructor: Airplane CFI, CFII
Will Graham Flight Instructor

Will Graham

Airplane Flight Instructor

Will was born and raised in Dallas, Texas. After graduating with an associate degree from Tyler Junior College, he went on a discovery flight and realized his goal was to become an airline pilot. After training in the DFW area and Oklahoma, he decided he would love to live closer to the beach and found a home at Tampa Bay Aviation. When he’s not flying, Will enjoys fishing and playing basketball and golf. He’s ready to begin helping others work towards their dream of becoming a pilot.

Will has the following ratings:

  • Commercial: Airplane Single Engine Land
  • Instructor: CFI, CFII
Drew Leevy Flight Instructor

Drew Leevy

Airplane Flight Instructor

Drew comes from a strong aviation background; it is in his blood. Drew’s father was an American Airlines captain before retiring. His grandfather flew the C5-A in the Air Force. His mother was an American Airlines flight attendant. Drew grew up in the Dallas Fort/Worth area inside the busy Class B airspace and did all his flight training there until he decided the “brutal” Texas winters were too much and recently relocated to Florida. Drew decided he wanted to become a Pilot at the age of 6 when he would always see MD80’s and 757’s take off out of DFW, that lit the spark or as some call it “The Aviation Bug”. You can see Drew light up when he is talking about airplanes, every conversation always seems to turn back to aviation.

Drew has the following ratings:

  • Certified Flight Instructor: Airplane CFI
Nick McManus

Nick McManus

Airplane Flight Instructor

Nick, originally from Iowa, first became interested in aviation while in high school and earned his Private Pilot License in 2007. Nick graduated from the University of Iowa in 2011 and is a U.S. Air Force veteran who spent several years working in construction management and building material manufacturing and sales but decided to move to Florida in 2021 and pursue a long-time dream in commercial aviation. After successfully completing his Instrument, Commercial, and Flight Instructor ratings at Tampa Bay Aviation, he became a Certified Flight Instructor in 2022. Nick has a passion for instructing and is looking forward to helping his students achieve their aviation goals!

Nick has the following ratings:

  • Commercial: Airplane Single Engine Land
  • Certified Flight Instructor (CFI)
Will Ott flight instructor

Will Ott

Airplane Flight Instructor

Will was raised in both Illinois and Georgia, he decided to pursue aviation in need of a career change. After serving six years in the U.S. Army Infantry, he and his wife along with their Australian Shepard moved to Florida in 2016 where he started working in marine repair. In 2020 he decided to leave that life behind and finish his degree through Liberty University; he was able to graduate in 2022. With the help of Tampa Bay Aviation Will has earned his Private through CFI Certificates.

Will has the following ratings:

  • Commercial: Airplane Single Engine Land
  • Certified Flight Instructor (CFI)
jack murphy airplane instructor

Jack Murphy

Airplane Flight Instructor

Jack Murphy was born and raised in Tampa, Fl. He started pilot training at Peter O. Knight airport in high school and furthered his education by receiving a Hospitality Management Degree from UCF. He has worked 6 years Full-Time in the F&B industry while pursuing a career in aviation. With a passion for service and aviation, he wants to inspire the next generation of GA pilots.

Jack has the following ratings:

  • Certified Flight Instructor (CFI)
lizandra

Lizandra Wiseman

Airplane Flight Instructor

Lizandra was born in Brazil and was introduced to the aviation world after taking a Flight Attendant Course back in her home country. She got really passionate about airplanes and decided to pursue a career as a pilot when she moved to the US. Lizandra has a passion for flying and is looking forward to helping student pilots achieve their goals and mold the future of aviation.

Lizandra has the following ratings:

  • Commercial: Airplane Single Engine Land, Multi Engine Land
  • Certified Flight Instructor: CFI, CFII
Erika Szillus airplane instructor

Erika Szillus

Airplane Flight Instructor

Erika is from Brooklyn, New York, and moved to Tampa, Florida after serving 9 years in the Coast Guard to obtain her Flight Instructor Certificate & assist others working their way through the same passion in aviation that she has. Erika holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Aeronautical Science from Vaughn College of Aeronautics and a Master’s Degree in Aeronautics specializing in Aviation Safety & Human Factors from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. Erika loves photography, hiking, and travel. Her long-term career goal is to fly for the airlines.

Erika holds the following ratings:

  • Commercial: Airplane single and multi engine land.
  • Certificated Flight Instructor: Airplane CFI, Ground instructor: Advanced (AGI)/ Instrument (IGI)
larry briggs airplane instructor

Lawrence “Larry” Briggs

Airplane Flight Instructor

Larry started flying when he was 13 years old with the USAF Civil Air Patrol. “While at a flight academy sponsored by Civil Air Patrol, I soloed in a Glider at 14. I continued to be involved with the Glider program through high school. I started flying Cessna 172s when I was 15, and went on to solo at 16. I attended NMC in Traverse City, Michigan. When COVID closed down most educational facilities, I relocated to Southern Alabama where I progressed in my flying skills, achieving commercial, instrument, multi engine, CFI, and CFII ratings.”

Larry holds the following ratings:

  • Commercial: Airplane single engine and Multi-engine land .
  • Certificated Flight Instructor: Airplane CFI, CFII

Helicopter Instructors

Carlo Biagini

Helicopter Flight Instructor 

 

Carlo is from Santa Rosa, California and began instructing in airplanes in 1991. After 12 years of fixed wing instruction, he decided it was time for a change and began a new challenge instructing in helicopters. He considers himself fortunate to have joined the exceptional team at Tampa Bay Aviation in 2018. Carlo would eventually like to pursue a career in fire fighting, EMS, or Search and Rescue

Carlo Biagini has the following ratings:

  • Airline Transport Pilot: Helicopter, Airplane Multi Engine Land
  • Commercial: Helicopter, Airplane Single Engine Land
  • Flight Instructor: Helicopter CFI, CFII; Airplane CFI, CFII, MEI
  • Ground Instructor: Advanced, Instrument
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jena kendall

 Helicopter Tour Pilot

Jena was born and raised in Three Lakes, WI. Her fascination with helicopters began at 5 years old, when the pilot demonstrated an autorotation on her first helicopter ride.

Jena graduated from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee with a double major in Finance and Marketing. While attending college, Jena completed her private pilot training. After working in business for a few years, she has made her transition into aviation.

Jena Kendall has the following ratings:

  • Commercial: Helicopter

 

 

 

 

Nick Simms helicopter instructor

Nicholas Simms

Helicopter Flight Instructor

Nick was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland. At age 19, he joined the United States Marine Corps where he served five years on active duty. Following the military, he began pursuing his passion in aviation by earning his Flight Instructor Certificate. Nick has an Associate’s degree in Aviation Management and continued his education for a Bachelor’s degree in Aeronautics through Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. Nick moved to Florida in 2018 with his family to enjoy the warm weather, outdoors and wonderful beaches. Nick’s long-term career goal is to serve the community as a law enforcement pilot.

Nick has the following ratings:

Commercial: Helicopter

Certified Flight Instructor: Helicopter CFI
Private: Airplane Single Engine Land

Andy Nafe

Andy Nafe

Andy was born and raised in Germany. In 2009 he moved to Switzerland to finish High School and
to do an apprenticeship as electrician. Andy worked on sites around the world and was able to visit several
country’s. In 2021 after getting his EASA private in Germany, Andy decided to move to the US. Here he finished
his pilot training as Commercial Pilot and Flight Instructor. Andy’s long term goals are to fly as EMS Pilot or
in the utility/fire branch.
 
 
Andy holds following ratings:
  • Commercial: Helicopter
  • Certified Flight Instructor: Helicopter CFI
Corey Hayes Flight instructor

Corey Hayes

Corey was born in Florida, but was raised in Vermont. He spent six years in the Air Force as enlisted aircrew before moving to the world of civilian aviation. Corey has worked in many different roles in aviation such as crew scheduler and aircraft dispatcher before discovering that being a helicopter pilot was the path for him. Corey completed his helicopter flight training just outside of Boise, Idaho, but has lived many years in the Tampa Bay area and is excited to be back. His long term goals are to one day work as a pilot for EMS or Police operations.
 
Corey holds following ratings:
  • Commercial: Helicopter
  • Certified Flight Instructor: Helicopter CFI, Helicopter CFII
  • Private: Airplane SEL:
Kevin Watkins Helicopter Tour Pilot

Kevin Watkins

Kevin was born in Fayetteville, NC and raised in Germany. He has been working as a paramedic in the German EMS since 2013. Working with EMS helicopters, he knew this would be a career he had to pursue. Kevin has been visiting family in Florida for the past 11 years regularly and considers Tampa his second home. Working on his Instructor certificate, he is excited to share the joy of flying helicopters. His long-term goal is to fly the EMS helicopter he worked with.

Kevin holds the following ratings:

  • Commercial: Helicopter
Angelo Tsilianos Helicopter Instructor

Angelo Tsilianos

Angelo was born and raised in Tarpon Springs, Florida. Worked on the water as a Master Merchant Mariner (aka boat captain) since 2011, then began pursuing his childhood dream after taking an intro flight with TBA in 2020 and is currently working on becoming a flight instructor as he loves to teach and inspire others. He would like to eventually work for EMS and law enforcement. 

Angelo holds the following ratings:

  • Commercial: Helicopter
Tobias Berger Helicopter Instructor

Tobias Berger

Tobias was born and raised in Munich, Germany. While exploring the German alps and seeing helicopters fly by, he manifested the dream of flying. In 2021 and straight out of Highschool he decided to pursue his dream career as a Helicopter Pilot and study in the US to become a Flight Instructor. Tobi’s long term goals are to return to the alps and fly utility/fire or EMS.

Tobias holds the following ratings:

  • Commercial: Helicopter
  • Certified Flight Instructor: Helicopter CFI, Helicopter CFII

    Staff

    Katie Gannon Flight School Manager

    Katie Gannon

    Third-Party Benefits Coordinator

    Katie was born and raised here in Florida and because her father is an airline pilot she has been around aviation her entire life. She attended USF St. Pete. She has obtained her private through flight instructor ratings and is working toward her CFII!

    Interested? Contact Us.

    If you are interested in learning to fly contact us and we will get back to you right away.

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