National Certificated Flight Instructor of the Year



 Since 1962, the General Aviation Awards Program has recognized a small group of aviation professionals in the fields of flight instruction, aviation maintenance, avionics, and flight safety for their important contributions to the aviation community.

This awards program is a partnership and a cooperative effort between more than a dozen sponsoring organizations from the aviation industry and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The selection process begins with local offices. Panels of aviation professionals from within those four fields then select national winners from the pool of regional winners.

The FAA administrator annually has presented the national awards in July during a “Theater in the Woods” program at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Included in the prize packages for each national winner is an all-expense paid trip to Oshkosh for the recipient and a guest to attend the awards presentation and other GA Awards activities. Generous contributions from industry sponsors pay for the winners’ expenses, while the FAA provides the support and structure for nominations to proceed from local to national levels. Hard working volunteers within the industry provide the various administrative tasks.

The General Aviation Awards Program is a cooperative effort between the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and aviation industry sponsors to recognize annually outstanding individuals in the fields of Avionics, Flight Instruction, and Maintenance. In addition, the program recognizes outstanding individuals serving the FAA Safety Team (FAASTeam) as representatives.

The awards highlight the important roles these individuals play in promoting aviation safety, education, and professionalism. Winners will be recognized locally, regionally and nationally. National winners will be recognized during AirVenture-Oshkosh each July. There, they will also receive gifts and merchandise provided by sponsors and contributors. 

For More information about GA Awards, please visit their webpage

2020 National CFI of the Year


catherine Cavagnaro cfi of the yearCatherine 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. [email protected]


Past National CFI of the Year Recipients:

2019 Gary Reeves (NAFI#219477)  
2018 Daniel P. Christman (NAFI#16593)
1992 William K Kershner
2017 Charles O. Gensler (NAFI# 18957) 1991  Lloyd J Probst
2016 Robert J. Hepp (NAFI# 216994) 1990 Sandra Provenzano
2015 Mary A. Schu (NAFI# 215075) 1989 John U. Rockcastle (NAFI#8012)
2014 Howard W. Wolvington (NAFI# 16507) 1988 Jeffrey Hanson
2013 Dean W. Eichholz (NAFI# 8691) 1987 June B. Bonesteel (NAFI#7685)
2012 Hobart C. Tomlinson (NAFI#19656) 1986 Genie Ray O’Kelley
2011 Judy A. Phelps 1985 Harold W Spencer
2010 Jeffery R. Moss (NAFI#215505) 1984 James G Byrnes
2009 Arlynn McMahon (NAFI#20271) 1983 Mary J. Reindl
2008 Max Trescott 1982 Gladys M. Morrison
2007 Michael G. Gaffney 1981 Fred H. Atkinson
2006 Richard L. Stowell, Jr 1980 Lee G. Barnes
2005 John A. Teipen (NAFI#13290) 1979 Evelyn B. Johnson
2004 Douglas Stewart 1978 Obie Sigrest Young (NAFI#2947)
2003 William J. Edwards (NAFI#12331) 1977 Edward Alan Englehardt
2001 Phillip J. Poynor (NAFI#9685) 1976 Gregory G. Gorak (NAFI#1245)
2002 Kirby V. Ortega (NAFI#14010) 1975 Unknown
2000 Gregory N. Brown 1974 Unknown
1999 David H. Faile 1973 Willard C. Marvin
1998 John C. “JC” Boylls (NAFI#4659) 1972 Thomas M. Smith
1997 James E. Trusty 1971 Unknown
1996 Ludwig J. “Lou” Wipotnik 1970 Unknown
1995 Lyn Carlson 1969 Unknown
1994 William E Huber 1968 Unknown
1993 Kenneth W Medley 1967 Henry “Hank” S. Hubbell