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About the Air Safety InstituteAir Safety Institute - About ASI

ASI is committed to reducing General Aviation mishaps by providing free educational resources and supporting initiatives that improve General Aviation safety and grow the pilot population.

Since 1950, the general aviation accident rate has decreased by 90 percent. It’s no coincidence that’s the same year the AOPA Air Safety Institute began creating safety programs for the pilot community.

The ASI team’s passion for aviation, creativity, insightful education, research, and analysis is evident in our educational offerings. From award-winning online courses to in-person seminars, flight instructor renewal courses, accident analysis, and much more, the products are created with the goal of helping all pilots fly more safely.

Meet the ASI Team

Richard McSpadden

Richard McSpadden, Executive Director, is committed to leading ASI’s efforts to reduce general aviation mishaps by providing free educational resources and supporting AOPA initiatives that improve general aviation safety and grow the pilot population.

Richard is a commercial pilot and CFI with over 4,500 hours in 30 years of flying a variety of civilian and military aircraft. He has extensive experience in aviation safety, including ground, flight, and special event operations. Richard currently owns a Cherokee 140 aircraft that he recently used to instruct his son to a successful completion of his private pilot certificate.

Prior to joining ASI, Richard had a successful career at Hewlett Packard leading large, geographically dispersed operations providing business-critical information technology services. Prior to HP, Richard closed his 20-year Air Force career as the Commander and Flight Leader of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds flight demonstration team where he headed the U.S. Air Force’s flagship organization and led over 100 flight performances.

Kathleen Vasconcelos, Vice President, Education and Operations, is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Air Safety Institute. She oversees each aspect of the department, including the production of training courses, videos, seminars, and Flight Instructor Refresher Courses. Prior to joining ASI she worked in AOPA’s Media Relations department where she communicated AOPA’s message to the media and general public. Kathleen is a commercial pilot with instrument and multiengine ratings, and an instrument-rated flight instructor. She holds a B.S. degree in Aeronautical Science from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and a B.A. degree in Communication Studies from University of Maryland University College.

Paul Deres, Director, Education, oversees the Air Safety Institute’s production team that is responsible for creating content for online courses, safety videos, seminars, and more, as well as staying up on all the latest trends in learning strategies, technologies, and tools.

Paul has a bachelor’s degree in Missionary Aviation from Piedmont International University (formerly Piedmont Bible College) where he earned most of his pilot certificates and ratings, including and his airframe and powerplant certificates. Prior to joining AOPA in 2004, Paul was an active flight instructor and retail manager in the furniture industry in North Carolina. He holds the Project Management Professional (PMP) credential as well as an executive certificate in business administration from the University of Notre Dame. Paul is a veteran of the U.S. Army, Infantry.

John Collins, Manager, Aviation Safety Programs, is the Chief Flight instructor for the Air Safety Institute’s Flight Instructor Refresher Courses (both in-person and online) and is responsible for the in-person seminar program.

John began working at AOPA in July 1998 in the Pilot Information Center as a Research Assistant. Prior to joining the Air Safety Institute, he was the Manager of Airport Policy for AOPA. He holds Commercial Pilot and CFI certificates. In his 20 years of aviation experience, he has flight instructed, flown Search & Rescue missions and charter flights, and worked as a line service specialist. He has logged over 2,100 hours of flight time and more than 1,300 hours of dual instruction given.

John has a bachelor’s degree in Aviation Management and Flight Operations from the University of Dubuque. He is a US Army veteran and served as a tank platoon leader in Desert Storm and as a supply company executive officer in Somalia during Operation Restore Hope. In his "spare time," John volunteers as a Scoutmaster and enjoys hammock camping, backpacking, and hiking. He is married, has two teenage children, and resides with his family in wild, wonderful West Virginia.

David Jack Kenny, Manager, Safety Analysis, analyzes GA accident data to target the Air Safety Institute’s safety education programs, support AOPA’s ongoing initiatives, and to assist other departments in responding to breaking developments. David maintains ASI’s accident database and regularly writes for ePilot, Flight School Business, Flight Training, CFI-to-CFI, and other publications. He’s the primary author of the Nall Report and other ASI research studies—none of which keeps him away from the hangar for long. He holds a fixed-wing airline transport pilot certificate with commercial privileges for helicopter and has logged more than 2,000 hours as pilot in command. He uses his 1967 Piper Arrow to make rescue flights for Pilots N Paws, give introductory flights, and occasionally even fly for pleasure. David received advanced degrees in statistics from Stanford and the George Washington University.


Kim Reed, Administrative Assistant, joined the AOPA Foundation and Air Safety Institute as an Administrative Assistant in October 2016. She provides administrative support for the online Flight Instructor Refresher Course (eFIRC) program and the AOPA Foundation. Prior to joining ASI, Kim served as a Member Services Representative, where she provided excellent customer service to AOPA members. Prior to that, Kim was the Program Specialist for the Airport Support Network (ASN).

Robin Sharitz, Meeting Planner, has worked with the Air Safety Institute since 1989 and oversees the logistics of ASI’s nationwide safety seminars and in-person Flight Instructor Refresher Course (FIRC), which includes finding locations, booking facilities, and coordinating seminar presenter and FIRC instructor schedules and resources. Robin also works with seminar attendees and FIRC customers to maintain a high degree of satisfaction for both programs. Additionally, she assists ASI’s chief flight instructor on other safety and FIRC-related projects. Robin attended Frederick Community College for business administration.

Kristen Bodnar, Project Manager, joined the ASI production team in June 2014, where she is responsible for the project coordination, development, and management of many of the Air Safety Institute’s educational safety programs and services, such as interactive online courses, quizzes, live safety seminars, webinars, and video productions.

Prior to joining ASI, Kristen worked in AOPA’s Communications department, where she assisted with media relations and outreach activities. Kristen has previously worked as a contractor for the FAA’s Aviation Weather Division where she supported weather integration into air traffic control tools.

Kristen earned her private pilot certificate in 2012. She is a graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Applied Meteorology, a minor in Professional Communication, and an MBA in Aviation. Her hobbies include flying, fishing, competing in races, and watching Washington Redskins and Washington Capitals games with her husband and mini golden-doodle.

Machteld Smith, Aviation Technical Writer, writes and develops content for the Air Safety Institute’s safety education programs, including online courses, newsletters, and publications. Before joining ASI, she was a Senior Editor for AOPA Pilot and managing AOPA’s Airport Directory.

Born in Wellington, New Zealand, and of Dutch nationality before coming to the U.S, she studied journalism and traveled the world as a KLM (Royal Dutch Airlines) stewardess on DC-8s and -9s. Among the first 100 recreational pilots in early 1991, Machteld currently holds a commercial certificate, with single- and multiengine instrument and single-engine seaplane ratings.

Flights trumping her airline career: piloting a C172 in to and out of Leadville, Colorado; flying a Piper Tripacer on floats around Alaska’s Mount McKinley and Denali’s glaciers; and earning her tailwheel signoff in a Citabria.

Bob Knill, Aviation Technical Writer, is primarily focused on producing many of the Air Safety Institute’s educational safety videos and helping with visual media for ASI’s online courses. He brings experience in editorial photography and videography, as well as a technical background as a systems administrator to the Institute. Bob holds a single-engine seaplane rating and a single-engine airplane rating with instrument privileges.

Prior to joining ASI, Bob worked as a network administrator for the AOPA I&T department and previously served as an aeromedical evacuation technician on C130 aircraft in the Air National Guard for the 167TH AW in Martinsburg, WV.

Tyler Pangborn, Videographer, joined the Air Safety Institute team in August 2015. He is responsible for the creation of ASI’s safety videos.

Prior to joining ASI, Tyler worked as an aerial photographer/remote sensor operator for Richard Crouse & Associates at the Frederick airport, and before that, as an assistant video producer with High Rock Studios in Hagerstown, MD. He brings several years of video production experience with him, and is also an active student pilot.

Tyler graduated from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, with a bachelor’s degree in Visual Arts. He currently resides in Hagerstown, MD with his wife and two daughters.

Claire Urban

Claire Urban, e-Learning Designer, joined the Air Safety Institute team in January 2016. She is responsible for creating and updating many of ASI’s online courses including the online flight instructor refresher course.

Prior to joining ASI, Claire worked as a contractor developing many of ASI’ current interactive online courses. It was a natural progression to bring her e-learning development and web design skills in-house. As a lifelong resident of Frederick, Claire has worked as a Senior Designer for many years in a local online marketing agency, and as a freelance designer.

Claire is a graduate from Shepherd University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Design. She has added student pilot to her list of achievements. Her passions range from going off-highway in her Jeep to photography, jewelry making, and woodworking.