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Five Questions: Catherine Cavagnaro

Spin aficionado

Catherine Cavagnaro is a spin wizard—and she learned from the best. Her instructor was “Spin Doctor” William K. Kershner, who once performed 25 consecutive spins in a Cessna 152. Cavagnaro broke Kershner’s record by performing 60 spins and continues to teach spin recovery and aerobatics in Sewanee, Tennessee, where she is also a professor of mathematics at Sewanee: The University of the South.
Five Questions

Learn more from Catherine Cavagnaro at AOPA’s 2019 Regional Fly-Ins.

How did you get started in aviation? Two months after earning tenure [at Sewanee] and having my first son, I signed up for flying lessons. While it was a much later start than I had hoped, I continue to make up for lost time. I love everything aviation.

What were your biggest challenges? During college and as a graduate student, I couldn’t afford flying lessons. Still, I would take my homework out to the local airport just to watch airplanes take off and land and dream of the day when that would be me.

Do you have a favorite aviation-related activity? There are too many to count. Nothing is better than exploring our beautiful world with my sons, Jack and Pete, while traveling in our own airplane. I love using my mathematics background to learn the technical side of flying and share it with pilots who want a more complete understanding of their airplanes and to fly more safely.

Favorite airplane? My favorite airplane is my Cessna Aerobat, Wilbur, who serves as a platform for spin and aerobatic instruction. A close second is my aerobatic Bonanza Niki. Not only is she fun for aerobatics but she offers an efficient means of cross-country travel with my sons.

Advice for students? Don’t wait like I did! If you are resourceful, there are ways to make your aviation dream happen. Start by visiting your local airport and let your interests be known. The aviation community is generous and loves to support those with passion for flight.

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