Posted in , on August 19, 2013

Learning to Fly

Pilot. Drummer. Dad. Baltimore Resident. NCSY Alumnus. Orthodox Jew.


Now there’s a set of words I never thought I’d use together. But they embody Chuckie Epstein, a Baltimore dad of four who’s really integrates his past with his future.



“I wasn’t raised religious, but I always went to a Jewish school,” he reminisced. “When I was in 5th grade, NCSY decided to have a shabbaton in my school. I went and got hooked by the music more than anything else. That’s when I started coming [to NCSY Shabbatons] regularly.”


Because he was so moved by the music, he made sure to always be involved in the post-Shabbaton music scene.


“I had a band when I was in school in 7th and 8th grade. We rehearsed at the drummer’s house. And even though I played guitar in the band, I switched to drums and saw that I took to it naturally. So I ended up playing the  drums at every shabbaton.”


Music is what helped him to become observant as well. He was drawn in by the atmosphere and it kept him coming to shabbatons, and he hopes that, even though childhood is very different all these years later, it will continue to be the draw that keep kids coming back to NCSY and ignites their spiritual selves.


“I’ve been called back over the last couple of years to play at shabbatons,” Epstein explains and turns to a melancholy tone. “Of course the music doesn’t have the same affect on me that it had back then. I remember every shabbos would be quiet, but then suddenly the curtains would be pulled back right after havdalah and the band would be behind the stage and the drummer would boom on the bass drum to get the band to start playing. Music changed that moment so much.”


Even in his career, music still continues to play a big part. He has played alongside the Jewish music greats like Mordechai Ben David, Shlock Rock and Avraham Fried, and continues to play with Zemer Orchestras, Baltimore’s band for bar mitzvahs and weddings.


But his career path didn’t stop there. After spending four years learning in Israel, he came back home to Baltimore not really sure what path he wanted to take in life. Six months later, his mother pushed him to take an “Intro Flight,” since he had always loved flying.


“I completely fell in love with it,” he said. “It’s an unbelievable experience to fly an airplane.”


He has been a flight instructor for close to twenty years now, teaching in various flight schools. But because the economy was so bad, many of the places that employed him as a private charter flight pilot and instructor kept shutting down. After close to ten years of this, he decided he had to learn another skill. So he became a computer repair technician.


“I lasted there for two years, but I was missing being up in the air”


Most recently, two years ago he was hired  in Frederick, Maryland as a flight instructor and part time charter pilot. He has been working there ever since. Even though this job is an unusual path for an Orthodox Jewish dad to take, his kids are very used to their dad being a pilot.


“They know flying is an unusual job  but they also don’t know any different. I’m also not away a lot anymore. When I was away a lot, I only had one kid who was too young to realize. Now I’m home every evening. So when my kids ask me, ‘What’d you do today?’ I can answer, ‘Oh, I had a few students. We flew a little.’ and it’s just a  typical day for them.”


At 43, Epstein seems happy he is able to lead his life doing the things he loves, drumming, flying, and keeping a Torah observant household. He advises those with similar dreams topursue their aviation dreams and is happy to help them in any way he can (if you’d like to get in touch with Epstein, please send us an email and we’ll be happy to connect)!