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FAASTeam Volunteers Come in All Shapes and Sizes

FAA Safety Briefing
Oct 29 · 5 min read
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By Jim Tise, FAA Corporate Communications Division

Bill Hopper organized the first helicopter safety seminar in St. Louis. Since then he has held scores of safety meetings on behalf of the FAA and through organizations he formed — the Greater St. Louis Helicopter Association and the Greater St. Louis Rotor and Wing Association.

Karen Ann Kalishek has worked with the FAA Safety Team (FAASTeam) Program Manager (FPM) at the Milwaukee Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) since 2013. Her efforts to recruit new FAASTeam Reps, schedule meetings, and research topics for webinars made her the agency’s National FAASTeam Representative of the Year in 2019.

Vic Moss uses drones in his profession as an aerial photographer. He has advised local legislators about drone airspace and safety regulations. He is now a member of industry’s Drone Advisory Council that provides insight and advice to the FAA.

From left to right: Bill Hopper, Karen Ann Kalishek, and Vic Moss

These are just a few of the more than 2,500 people who volunteered last year as FAASTeam Reps. They help the FAA spread its safety message to pilots, mechanics, and more recently, drone operators. Representatives are especially important because they encourage members of their community to view aviation safety as a topic of continued education, promoting ongoing participation in safety courses to maintain and increase proficiency. The FAA would welcome more like them.

“Whether they’re a pilot, mechanic, or drone operator, FAASTeam Reps share several important characteristics,” said Guido Hassig, the National FAASTeam program manager for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) or drones. “They are passionate about promoting aviation safety and supporting the FAASTeam’s mission, and well renowned for their talents as aviation safety experts,” he said.

Hassig and his National FAASTeam colleagues, Guy Minor (airworthiness program manager), and Kevin Clover (operations program manager), believe FAASTeam Reps bring significant benefits — both tangible and intangible — to the agency.

“Their impact is huge,” said Clover. “Reps multiply our efforts so much,” he explained. “They’re everything to our program,” said Minor.

FAASTeam Reps also cover a wide variety of communities to include those involved in sport aircraft, gliders, and balloons. Their expertise on specific subjects complement FAA inspectors’ all-around knowledge. In a sense, they serve as the eyes and ears of the agency.

For example, FAASTeam Rep Adam Magee has used his life-long love of ballooning to become a leading safety advocate, creating hot air balloon- specific content on FAASafety.gov. His balloon safety presentations have reached close to 2,000 balloon pilots during the past year.

FAASTeam Reps also provide increased access to members of the aviation community via networks, email lists, or other groups on which the FAA can rely. For instance, Moss, an aerial photographer, administers two social media groups with a combined membership of 18,000–20,000 drone enthusiasts. As a FAASTeam “DronePro,” he conveys important information about the FAA’s drone safety standards, regulations, and policies through those groups while promoting FAA safety seminars. That’s vital to the FAA considering there are already more than 800,000 drones registered in the United States, with more expected. As for what prompted Moss to initially volunteer with the FAASTeam, it’s all about safety. “I wanted to jump in on that and help the industry,” he said.

FAASTeam Reps may also be designated as DronePros and/or WINGSPros.

Reps also supplement the FAA’s resources through the thousands of safety briefings they host each year. Volunteers have been influential in promoting continual training and skills enhancement for pilots through the WINGS Pilot Proficiency Program, and for mechanics through the AMT Awards Program.

“When it comes to attending seminars, it is often difficult for mechanics to participate because, at the end of the day, they are ready to go home and spend time with their families and hobbies,” explained Bill Hopper, director of safety for Helicopters, Inc., and FAASTeam Rep for airworthiness out of the St. Louis FSDO. “Encouraging mechanics to participate in proficiency courses can be a hard sell,” he added. But it’s one that Hopper has made for the last 28 years. His motivation is simple, “When you are in aviation, you’re either a contributor or a user. I prefer to be a contributor,” he said.

At 66, Hopper said he has no plans to retire. In his mind, there’s no hard part to being a rep. “I just enjoy doing it. It’s a time commitment. If you enjoy what you’re doing there’s nothing that’s hard. I will continue to promote aviation safety as long as I can do it.”

Perhaps one of the biggest advantages FAASTeam volunteers offer is who they are not: government employees. That’s an important factor as the FAA seeks to reassure the aviation community of its intent to work together as colleagues. “They’re our link to the community,” said Clover. “They can talk to someone that an FAA employee could not. It helps build a better safety culture.”

FAASTeam Rep Karen Ann Kalishek agrees. “It brings the FAA, which can seem like a large bureaucratic organization, down to a personal level, one pilot talking to another,” she said.

As a flight instructor and designated pilot examiner out of Green Bay, Wisc., Kalishek says she has “become, personally, very comfortable working with FAA people. They’re wonderful, safety-oriented individuals who are there to help and promote safety.”

The core is that I’m very passionate about aviation safety,” said Kalishek about her role as a FAASTeam Rep. “I already know seven people who have passed in aviation accidents. The more I can do to prevent similar occurrences, the better.”

If you’re interested in becoming a FAASTeam Representative, contact a FAASTeam Program Manager (FPM) at your local Flight Standards District Office. Go to the FAASTeam Online Directory, select your state or region, then view the list of program managers at the top of the list.

Jim Tise is an editor in the FAA’s Corporate Communications division.
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This article was originally published in the November/December 2021 issue of FAA Safety Briefing magazine. https://www.faa.gov/news/safety_briefing/
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Official FAA safety policy voice for general aviation. Part of the national FAA Safety Team (FAASTeam).

Cleared for Takeoff

Voices, stories and news from the Federal Aviation Administration