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.
Ruth and Ferris Thomas
Inducted: November 3, 2018
Ruth Lynn Wolfe was born in Strawberry Plains, TN October 28, 1918 and attended nearby Carson-Newman College. Her first date with Ferris Thomas was a flying lesson in December 1938. She soloed June 30, 1939 and began teaching school in Dandridge, TN in the Fall of 1939. Ruth and Ferris were married July 21, 1940.
Ruth earned her Private Pilot’s Certificate eighteen days after she and Ferris married; the next day, she became a Charter Member of the Tennessee Chapter of 99’s: The International Organization of Women Pilots.
Ferris and his friend Sonny Rising established Knox-Flite, Inc., the first general aviation business at the new McGee Tyson Airport in 1937. He bought the business from Rising two years later. Business prospered and he acquired a fleet of nine aircraft. In 1941 he contracted to operate Island Airport and operated Knox-Flite at both airports but the war was hurting the growth of aviation.
Ferris joined The Ferry Command in 1942 and was soon commissioned a First Lieutenant in the Army Air Force. Ruth and Ferris were stationed at Romulus Army Air Field at Detroit. On May 14, 1942 she received a telegram offering her a position as Air Traffic Control Trainee at the old Detroit Center. She is believed to be the first female Air Traffic Controller. He instructed, was a Check Pilot, then began ferrying fighters and bombers to bases in the U.S. and abroad. About two years later she resigned as an ATC moving to Ferris’ new assignment at Presque Isla, Maine. He flew 27 trans-Atlantic cargo runs in C-54’s.
In 1945, they moved to Hamilton Field in San Francisco where at years end a son, Ferris Anderson Thomas, Jr. was born. After the war he flew routes across the Pacific. The Ferry Command ended in 1946 and Ferris was discharged as a Major.
They returned to Knoxville in 1946. Ferris continued to flight instruct and was Chief Pilot for Kerns Bakery for several years. He was a Charter Member of Knoxville’s EAA Chapter 17. Ruth taught in Knoxville City Schools for 28 years and she participated in five all-women cross-country air races between 1952 and 1955.
Ferris and Ruth bought the property and developed Montvale Airpark, a flying residential community near Maryville.
For extraordinary service and achievement in aviation for Tennessee, our nation and the world, Ruth and Ferris Thomas are posthumously inducted into the Tennessee Aviation Hall of Fame this 3rd day of November 2018.
LTC Billy W. Cox USARMY (Ret.)
Inducted: November 3, 2018
Colonel Billy Cox was born in Rutherford County in 1935. He worked on the family farm, fascinated by over-flights of airplanes from nearby Murfreesboro Airport. He joined the National Guard while in high school and when he inquired about how to become a pilot, he was offered a flight in a Cessna L-19 Bird Dog.
Billy enrolled in the ROTC program at Middle Tennessee State College in 1955 and was selected to be in the first ROTC Flight Class. He soloed a J-3 Cub in 1958 and he and another cadet bought another J-3 Cub to build flight time prior to entering the Army. When he graduated he had a Private Pilot’s Certificate and was commissioned an Army 2nd Lieutenant. After Basic Training at Ft. Eustis, Billy was sent to Camp Wolters, Texas to complete rotary wing training. He flew the Chinook CH-21 and CH-47.
During the next twenty years, Cox served two combat tours in Vietnam and single tours in both Germany and Korea. Among many other medals, Billy earned the Bronze Star, the Air Medal with fourteen Oak Leaf Clusters and the Meritorious Service Medal. His 7,900 hours of flight time include 630 hours of combat flying. Stateside, Cox was stationed in seven different states including Tennessee.
His connection to his Alma Mater remained strong and when Billy returned to civilian life he went to work at MTSU. He was assigned the formidable challenge of gaining FAA Part 147 approval for Airframe and Powerplant Maintenance training and establishing the associated degree programs. Billy Cox became a truly exemplary University Professor engaging with his students on and off campus, attending aviation events with them, flying with them; mentoring and motivating; always with a trademark positive attitude and winning smile on his face! He earned recognition as MTSU’s Outstanding Teacher of the Year for 1986-87.
Billy Cox served his community as a Kiwanis Club President, past president of the Airfield Owner’s Association and EAA Chapter 419. Among numerous other accolades, he has received the Wright Brothers Master Pilot and is a current nominee for the Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award.
For extraordinary service and achievement in aviation for Tennessee, our nation and the world, and for his service to our country, LTC Billy W. Cox is inducted into the Tennessee Aviation Hall of Fame this 3rd day of November 2018.
LTC Cecil H. Brunson, USAF (Ret.)
Inducted: November 3, 2018
Memphian Cecil H. Brunson graduated from Memphis State University in 1970 and received his commission in the United State Air Force through the ROTC program at Memphis State. While on his honeymoon he received orders to report for active duty for Navigation Training at Mather AFB, California.
In February 1972, he received operational assignment to the 34th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Korat, Thailand for a combat tour in Southeast Asia. While there, he logged 160 combat missions and more than 380 hours of combat flight time in the F-4 Phantom. He is credited with one Mig-19 destroyed over North Vietnam. On October 12, 1972 Brunson’s plane was shot down over North Vietnam; he was captured and held prisoner by the North Vietnamese.
Upon release he returned to the United States and was selected for Pilot Training graduating with honors and the Outstanding Graduate Trophy awarded by the Air Training Command Commander. Brunson was subsequently reassigned to F-4 Phantom training initially at George AFB prior to operational assignment at Seymour-Johnson AFB, North Carolina.
Colonel Brunson’s military career awards and decorations include: The Silver Star,
Two Distinguished Flying Crosses, The Bronze Star (for Valor), Two Purple Hearts, Thirteen Air Medals, The Air Force Commendation Medal, The Prisoner of War Medal and The South Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry.
Lt. Colonel Cecil Brunson resigned from the Air Force in March 1980 returning to Memphis with his wife Jean and children, Kevin and Angela. He joined the Tennessee Air National Guard flying the C-130 retiring in 1991 after 21 years of military service He was hired by FedEx in August 1986 flying the Boeing 727, AirBus A-300/A-310, the DC-10 and finally the Boeing 777. Brunson retired as a FedEx Boeing 777 Captain in 2010 after a 25-year career in civilian aviation.
For extraordinary service and achievement in aviation for Tennessee, our nation and the world, and for his service to our country, LTC Cecil H. Brunson is inducted into the Tennessee Aviation Hall of Fame this 3rd day of November 2018.
Mona Sue McPherson
Inducted: November 3, 2018
Sue McPherson graduated from Lipscomb University in 1968 and began her career as a public school teacher. She earned her Masters degree from Tennessee State University in 1978. From 1972 until her retirement she taught in Sumner County at Hawkins Junior and Hendersonville High School. She taught biology, chemistry, physical science, physics and aerospace. At HHS she chaired the Science Department. Mrs. McPherson was honored as The Sumner County Teacher on the Year in 1989.
She has had a life-long passion for Aviation and Aerospace. She is a certificate Private Pilot and has introduced countless numbers of her students to the field of Aviation. She served on the Sumner County Airport Authority and was Secretary from 1997-2005; was the Sumner County Composite Squadron Aerospace Education Officer; served as Director of the Vanderbilt Dyer Observatory Space Exploration Science Camp from 2004-2010. Sue was the coordinator of Aerospace Days at Sumner County Regional Airport in 1998, First Flight in 2001 and the Centennial of Flight Celebration in 2003 and is a Board Member and Aerospace Camp Director for the Bill Sattler Aerospace Education Foundation. She is a member of The Music City Chapter of Women in Aviation and recently went sky-diving, exiting the aircraft at 14,000 feet.
Some of her numerous awards include: The Christa McAuliffe Fellowship 1989, Space Foundation Educator Award 2003, Tennessee Academy of Science Award 2000 and Presidential Science Award Finalist in 1989 and numerous science grants.
Sue McPherson is a person of exceptional energy and endless curiosity. She has researched and studies rocketry, living in space, meteorology, physics, chemistry, astronomy, building satellites, the stars and planets and the Hubble Telescope. She participated in two summer Aerospace studies in Russia in 1991-1992 through People to People. In 1991 at her request, a Tennessee flag was taken to the Russian Space Station Mir.
As an avid, faith volunteer, Sue has participated in Mission work in El Salvador, Honduras, Peru, Panama and Romania. In 1999 she worked on a Biblical Archaeological Dig in Israel.
For extraordinary service and achievement in Aviation for Tennessee, our nation and the world, Mona Sue McPherson is induced into the Tennessee Aviation Hall of Fame this 3rd day of November 2018.