February 20

Ben Epps

February 20, 1888 - Oconee County, Athens

Just four years after the Wright brothers, he was the first person to build and fly an airplane in Georgia.

Ben Epps was born in Oconee County in 1888. The idea of flying fascinated the gifted mechanic. In 1907, at age 19, he opened the first car repair garage in Athens, where he built and flew a monoplane. Epps built and purchased enough airplanes to begin a flying service. In 1919, he and his partner Monte Rolf opened Epps Flying Field near Athens, the first airport in Georgia.

Epps trained Georgia’s first generation of pilots, including his son Ben Jr., at age 13 the youngest person ever to fly solo. In 1937, at 49, Epps died doing what he loved, killed when his plane crashed.

Georgia’s first airport was renamed Ben Epps Field to honor him, and he was later inducted into the Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame. The first Georgian to take wing was born on February 20, 1888, Today in Georgia History.