2020 General Aviation Award Winners

2020 General Aviation Award Winners

Recipients of the 2020 National General Aviation Awards are:

  • Catherine Elizabeth Cavagnaro —2020 National Certificated Flight Instructor of the Year
  • Dennis Robert Wolter —2020 Aviation Technician of the Year
  • Gary Michael Brossett —2020 National FAA Safety Team Representative of the Year

2020 National Certificated Flight Instructor of the Year

Catherine Elizabeth Cavagnaro CFI

Catherine Elizabeth Cavagnaro of Sewanee, Tennessee has been named the 2020 National Certificated Flight Instructor of the Year. Dr. Cavagnaro is a mathematician by training, earning her B.S. in mathematics at Santa Clara University in 1987, and her Ph.D. in mathematics at the University of Illinois in 1995. She serves as Professor of Mathematics and formerly as Chair of the Mathematics Department at Sewanee:  The University of the South. In that capacity, she has developed and implemented courses in such areas as aerodynamics, differential equations and mathematical modeling. Aviation provides a treasure trove of real-world examples for her mathematics courses.

Catherine owns and operates the Ace Aerobatic School in Sewanee, Tennessee, where she has become widely known as an expert on spin recovery and avoidance as well as recoveries from unusual attitudes. She films her own videos that help pilots understand the complex aerodynamics of spins and unusual attitudes and her presentations have drawn rave reviews.  Catherine has filmed a 60-turn spin in her Cessna Aerobat to show that the recovery is the same after three turns. During 2004-2008, Professor Cavagnaro served as a test pilot, spin demonstration pilot, researcher, and visiting professor of aviation systems at the University of Tennessee Space Institute. While there, she served on the icing team that modeled the longitudinal stability characteristics of NASA’s Twin Otter in various icing configurations, and configured the variable-stability Navion to duplicate these characteristics.  In 2018, Catherine was inducted into the Tennessee Aviation Hall of Fame.

She is an Airline Transport Pilot (ASEL), a Commercial Pilot (ASES, AMEL, glider) and a Flight Instructor (ASE, AME, instrument). She serves as a lead representative for the FAA Safety Team with the Nashville FSDO, and was honored as 2018 FAASTeam Representative of the Year. She also serves the Nashville FSDO as a Designated Pilot Examiner.

Catherine is a monthly contributor to AOPA Pilot Magazine for which she writes on safety, proficiency and technical aspects of aviation.  She is a highly sought speaker and has a knack for making complex aviation concepts accessible and entertaining to non-technical audiences. One attendee at Catherine’s presentation at the 2017 AOPA Regional Fly-In in Groton, Connecticut, told AOPA that “Catherine Cavagnaro’s seminar was the best one I’ve ever seen on any topic.”

When she isn’t teaching aviation or mathematics, Catherine loves exploring our country with her sons, Jack and Pete, in their acrobatic Beechcraft Bonanza. catherine@aceaerobaticschool.com

2020 Aviation Technician of the Year

Dennis Robert Wolter A&P/IA

Dennis Robert Wolter of Cincinnati, Ohio has been named the 2020 Aviation Technician of the Year. Dennis became fascinated with airplanes at a very young age. When he was 11 an uncle gave him his Army Air Corps training manuals. At age 15, Dennis took some five-dollar intro rides in a Cessna 120, and soon started an airplane washing business that supported his training for his private pilot certificate. When he wasn’t washing airplanes, Dennis assisted an airport mechanic doing repairs on both metal and fabric airplanes. He spent the 1960s working on airplanes, serving as a line boy, on-call copilot on freight runs, unpaid ferry pilot, avionics installer, interior apprentice, and sheet metal technician.

Dennis graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 1969 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Design. After graduation, he taught engineering and aviation maintenance at Cincinnati State Technical College from 1970 to 1973. He received his mechanic airframe rating in 1972, his powerplant rating in 1984, and inspection authorization in 1999.

In 1973, Dennis founded Air Mod with the goal of designing, fabricating and installing interiors in general aviation piston aircraft. His company became known throughout the country as a premier aircraft renovation facility, bringing old-school craftsmanship and innovative design to every project. State of the art interiors, custom instrument panels, improved soundproofing, ventilation and lighting upgrades, ergonomic comfort, safety enhancements, and other modifications are all executed to the highest standards.

Dennis holds an STC and numerous FAA field approvals involving seat improvements, cabin ventilation, instrument lighting, cabin upholstery, windshield and window modifications, and passenger restraints.

Dennis served on the board of the Great Oaks career and technical education school system in Wilmington, Ohio, serving on their aviation program development committee. Over the past four decades, he has presented numerous seminars about interior renovation, corrosion, aging aircraft issues and compliance with FAA regulations at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh and at Sun ‘n Fun. He has given similar presentations at AOPA and American Bonanza Society (ABS) conventions and Cessna Pilots Association (CPA) fly-ins. In 2019, at the request of the ABS Air Safety Foundation, Dennis gave a three-hour presentation on aging aircraft issues that was videotaped and placed on the ABS website as a tool to educate Beech owners how to keep their airplanes in airworthy condition.

Dennis has written nearly a hundred articles for the ABS and CPA magazines and served as a technical representative for both associations, fielding hundreds of phone calls and emails from aircraft owners. He currently writes monthly articles for Cessna Flyter and Piper Flyer magazines.

Between 1994 and 2013, beginning with the “Better Than New 172,” Dennis was asked by AOPA an unprecedented five times to renovate the interiors of AOPA sweepstakes airplanes, often involving custom installations and FAA field approvals. He also provided AOPA with technical assistance on several other sweepstakes projects.

Dennis has served as a consultant to both Cessna and Beech regarding technical and design matters. He has worked with AmSafe on airbag passenger restraint installations, and with Skandia on the development of superior soundproofing materials for piston GA airplanes. drwolter@airmod.com

2020 National FAA Safety Team Representative of the Year

Gary Michael Brossett A&P/IA

Gary Michael Brossett of Midland, Georgia has been named the 2020 National FAA Safety Team Representative of the Year. Beginning with his initial appointment in 2005 as a Georgia Accident Prevention Counselor and subsequently as a FAASTeam Representative and Leader, Gary has distinguished himself in devoting his time, attention, talent and expertise in managing and mitigating GA accidents, incidents, pilot deviations and runway incursions using the FAASTeam core strategy of training, outreach and education. To quantify Gary’s devotion to this mission, in the past five years he has personally hosted more than 84 aviation training events in his area (76% of the total), and more than 208 in the Georgia district (44% of the total). 

Gary served in the U.S. Air Force from 1980 to 2005 as a mechanic, engine shop supervisor, lead engine mechanic, engine maintenance supervisor, aircraft maintenance supervisor and technical school administrator and instructor. Upon leaving the Air Force in 2005, Gary joined Pratt & Whitney where he serves as a Senior Quality Engineer and Maintenance Instructor at P&W’s Engine Center in Columbus, Georgia. Gary holds a Master of Science in Aviation/Aerospace Education from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and a Master of Science in Quality Management from Eastern Michigan University. 

Gary is an A&P mechanic with Inspection Authorization, a private pilot rated for both airplane single-engine land and lighter-than-air/balloon, and a  remote pilot for small UAS. He is a five-time Master Aviation Educator with Master Instructors LLC.Gary is a life member of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), the Air Force Association (AFA), and the Aircraft Engine Historical Society (AEHS). He is also a member of the Vintage Aircraft Association (VAA), the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), the American Society for Quality (ASQ), and the Balloon Federation of America (BFA).

Gary is passionate about ballooning. In addition to being an FAA-certificated private balloon pilot (working on his commercial), he has earned BFA certification as Basic Aeronaut and Master Crew Chief, and in 2019 was honored by BFA as National Crew Member of the Year. brossettg@gmail.com

2020 Regional Honorees

East GL05 Cincinnati OH ATA Dennis Wolter
East EA63 Windsor Locks CT REP Dave Strassburg
West WP27 Oakland CA CFI Vince Nastro
West NM09 Portland OR REP Robert “Robin” Reid
South EA68 Charlotte NC ATA Mike Everhart
South WP07 Scottsdale AZ CFI Jim Pittman
South SO11 Atlanta GA REP Gary Brossett
Central CE21 Memphis TN ATA Matthew Parish
Central CE19 Nashville TN CFI Catherine Cavagnaro
Central CE21 Memphis TN REP Morris “Doc” Ray