By Paul Cianciolo, FAA Safety Briefing Associate Editor
Growing up in a small town in upstate New York, Guido Hassig took his first airplane ride when he was 12. The life-changing flight was with a family friend who owned a Piper Cherokee and a private grass airstrip. That spark ignited his love for aviation.
After earning a shiny new bachelor’s degree in philosophy, Guido quickly realized that there were not a lot of jobs for philosophers. That realization fanned the old aviation spark from earlier years back into flame. He figures that if Aristotle said that “happiness is the highest good,” then aviation must be the highest calling.
Following years of training, Guido worked in the aviation industry both as a pilot and maintenance technician. While attending an FAA safety seminar at the local Flight Standards District Office (FSDO), Guido decided to volunteer as a safety counselor (the original title for a FAA Safety Team Representative) and began writing an aviation safety program newsletter. This work eventually led to a job as an aviation safety inspector with a FSDO in North Carolina.
Guido now works with the national FAA Safety Team (FAASTeam) serving as team lead for the connectU group — or Cross Organizational NetworkiNg, Education, and Communications Team for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS). Only a philosopher could come up with that kind of acronym!
The connectU group includes four subject matter experts who specialize in UAS, also known as drones. Responsibilities include supporting the FAASTeam’s mission as it relates to UAS outreach, and providing UAS performance support to the FAA’s Office of General Aviation Safety Assurance (GASA).
“The biggest challenge in reaching out to the UAS community is that drone language is not the same as with traditional aviation,” said Guido. “Communicating with new groups of people requires new thinking because UAS operators sometimes struggle to understand established aviation terminology.”
For example, Advisory Circulars (ACs) — well known to traditional pilots — have not always reached the UAS community. Unique approaches to educate these new operators, combined with a passion for improving UAS safety in the National Airspace System (NAS), is the focus of the connectU group.
One recent connectU achievement is the designation of qualified third-parties to administer The Recreational UAS Safety Test (TRUST). This effort will make the exam accessible to all recreational drone flyers and provide information on best practices and educational resources to ensure safe drone operations. The test was developed with input from the drone community to demonstrate a recreational flyer’s understanding of aeronautical safety knowledge and rules for operating unmanned aircraft.
Aviation safety has always relied on effective communication between pilots, technicians, air traffic controllers, airports, dispatchers, and many others.
“Now that remote pilots have been added to the equation and share some of the same airspace used by traditional aircraft, effective communication between this new community of aviators and traditional users of the NAS is equally important,” Guido explains.
In keeping with Guido’s philosophical roots, here’s one question he enjoys asking his fellow airmen:
“There’s a big difference between a pilot and an aviator. One is a technician; the other is an artist in love with flight.”
Which one are you?
Paul Cianciolo is an associate editor and the social media lead for FAA Safety Briefing. He is a U.S. Air Force veteran, and an auxiliary airman with Civil Air Patrol.