Aviation Safety Inspector for Airworthiness, National FAA Safety Team
By Paul Cianciolo, FAA Safety Briefing Associate Editor
Being from a small farming town in the middle of Michigan, Gary Knaggs had never thought about aviation as a career until a family friend mentioned it. He was introduced to an aviation maintenance technology program at his local community college as a junior in high school. He applied and hasn’t looked back since. According to Gary, working on airplanes is much more fun than working on tractors caked in cow pies.
After completing the college maintenance program, Gary took on jobs that included aircraft mechanic, chief inspector, and director of maintenance for various aviation companies. Then in 1998, he was hired as an airworthiness aviation safety inspector (ASI) in the Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) in Detroit.
In 2006, Gary became one of two FAA Safety Team (FAASTeam) program managers at the FSDO. His focus: outreach to the local general aviation community about aircraft airworthiness safety issues. Now he is part of the National FAASTeam at FAA headquarters.
The purpose of the FAASTeam is to lower the nation’s aviation accident rate by conveying safety principles and practices through training, outreach, and education while establishing partnerships and encouraging the continual growth of a positive safety culture within the aviation community.
In his new role, Gary helps with managing courses available on FAASafety.gov. He teaches and is the course mentor for prerequisite training of new FAASTeam program managers around the country. He is also the course mentor for initial and recurring courses taught at the FAA Training Center in Oklahoma City and remotely-sited courses.
“One of my favorite assignments is co-leading the FAA Safety Center seminars held during AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin,” states Gary. “I am also the audio-visual lead up in the booth. Each year, we organize the speakers to present during the fly-in, create the schedule, and assist with whatever is needed to make the presentations successful.”
The COVID-19 public health emergency prevented those seminars from happening last year. It has caused the FAASTeam everywhere to make adjustments in developing safety material and discover new ways to use available technology to present topics.
“The transition from in-person seminars to Zoom meetings has been a challenge,” explains Gary. “But, our FPMs [FAASTeam Program Managers] have done a great job adapting to the current situation.”
Gary asks all aviation maintenance technicians to stay the course.
“Keep doing your best to ensure your work is the best it can be,” he continues. “Our goal, as maintainers, is to do everything we can to make sure the aircraft is mechanically safe so that pilots and passengers can enjoy a fine running and reliable aircraft.”
If you happen to make it to AirVenture this summer or next, make sure to stop by the FAA Safety Center for some sound safety education and to wave to Gary, the wizard behind the curtain.
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.