Dr. Catherine Elizabeth Cavagnaro
Inducted: November 3, 2018
Dr. Catherine Elizabeth Cavagnaro is widely known as an expert on spins, aerobatics and upset recovery techniques. Pilots from all over the world travel to Sewanee, Tennessee to train with her at Ace Aerobatic School. She combines her backgrounds in mathematics and aviation to make the technical side of aviation accessible and interesting to pilots of all backgrounds. Catherine’s articles have appeared in AOPA PILOT, AOPA Flight Training Magazine, Aviation Safety Magazine and others. Catherine is a passionate aviation safety advocate and was named the 2018 National Safety Representative of the Year by the Federal Aviation Administration.
Catherine Cavagnaro grew up in California watching the airplanes operating out of nearby Moffett Federal Airfield and fell in love with aviation at an early age. She earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Santa Clara University and a Ph.D. in mathematics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Catherine accepted a professorship at Sewanee: The University of the South, a respected liberal arts college and one of the very few in the nation with an airport on campus. There she started her flying career that included aerobatic instruction with aviation great William K. “Bill” Kershner. Using her mathematics background, she helped with the technical aspects of Kershner’s flight manuals. After earning her Flight Instructor certificate, Catherine taught aerobatics with Kershner and continued the tradition of world-class spin, aerobatic and emergency recovery instruction at the Franklin County-Sewanee Airport after his passing.
At the University of Tennessee Space Institute, Catherine served as a researcher on the aircraft icing program as well as a spin demonstration pilot. Using her own airplanes, she authors novel in-flight videos that demonstrate the aerodynamics of stalls, spins and aerobatic flight that she shares in ground school at Ace Aerobatic School and in presentations given around the world. Her safety presentations consistently receive rave reviews and are responsible for attracting many new members to the Federal Aviation Administration WINGS program.
Catherine Cavagnaro holds Airline Transport Pilot, Commercial and Flight Instructor certificates and serves as a Designated Pilot Examiner for the Nashville Flight Standards District Office. She loves exploring our beautiful nation by sharing general aviation adventures with her sons, Jack and Pete.
For extraordinary dedication to improving aviation knowledge and safety in Tennessee, our nation and the world, Dr. Catherine Elizabeth Cavagnaro is inducted into the Tennessee Aviation Hall of Fame this 3rd day of November 2018.