Our Team

The CAVU Team are all advocates for conservation and social justice issues and they bring with them the necessary experience and skillset to help us achieve our mission.

David S. Smith

Founder, Executive Director, and Chief Pilot

David Smith grew up in New York and Washington DC and graduated from Williams College with a degree in Political Science. He spent 7 years in Africa, with experience in 43 countries, working first with the Ford Foundation, and as hired-gun bush pilot, and later as a photojournalist with Reuters covering a number of the continent’s messier conflicts. He returned to the United States and worked in the film industry. Since the early 1990s, David has devoted himself full time to work as a conservationist, and has also served as Chairman of the Board of St. Catherines Island Foundation
With his wife Jordan, he co-founded CAVU where he is currently the chief pilot and Executive Director. He spent 10 years living and working in Central America where he produced, directed 14 community outreach films in 10 countries in 3 languages, a number of which are still in use by national school and broadcasting systems in Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Belize, among others.
David also conducted hundreds of low-level aerial overflights, with both NGO’s and multiple government agencies in Latin America, mapping the Meso-American Barrier Reef System and documenting damaged watersheds and deforestation as far south as the Peruvian Amazon. David is a commercial/single/multi-engine/land/sea/glider/instrument rated pilot with over 4,500 hours experience on three continents.

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Following the creation of CAVU, David’s focus broadened to include film as an integral part of an expanding educational outreach effort, with the ability to bring cutting-edge technology to the most remote locations. Finally, working closely with CAVU’s executive director, David helped establish strategic partnerships with organizations recognized for innovative techniques and on-the-ground effectiveness.
Today, David believes that CAVU, while still small and young, is uniquely positioned to be a nimble, creative and cost-effective force in the critical struggle to balance sustainable economic development with the protection of natural resources.
David is a commercial/single/multi-engine land/sea/glider/instrument rated pilot with over 4,500 hours experience on four continents.

Ariel Gudwin

Ariel is a native of Santa Fe, New Mexico. She graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelor’s degree in Cultural Anthropology and a minor in Asian Studies from Portland State University. After graduating from university she earned a TESL/TOFL certification and moved to China to teach English as a second language to both children and adults. After spending a year working and travelling throughout China Ariel relocated to Phnom Penh, Cambodia where she accepted an administrative position at the first American style liberal arts university in Cambodia, the American University of Phnom Penh. In this capacity she organized and oversaw the Human Resources department and provided assistance to the Vice President of Academic Affairs through the Registrar’s Office. Through her travels and work experience Ariel expanded her interest in social justice and the need for environmental sustainability, especially in regards to developing countries, which led her to find a home with CAVU. She plans to return to school in the Fall to obtain a Master’s degree in Peace Building and Conflict Resolution.

Tony Hale

Editor: “Voces del Darien”, “Nuestras Aguas; Nuestra Vida”, “Agua…Mas Que un Tubo”, “Cockscomb: Jaguar Proud”

As a kid, Tony Hale first discovered editing while using a Mac to record his drum kit. Some years later, while attending Boston College and working for a Harvard University media lab, he rediscovered this passion in the field of film and video. After graduating with a degree in math and four BC film awards (including Best Picture), he traveled to Chiriquí, Panamá to complete his first documentary, featured in various Latino and environmental film festivals and awarded with Best Documentary in Landmark Theatre’s Little Big Films competition.

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In his hometown of Boston, MA, Tony furthered his filmmaking efforts with numerous independent and commercial projects; a Multimedia Citation from Harvard University; and continued work in the non-profit sector, including videos for organizations such as The Asian American Civic Association, Charles River Conservancy, Homeboy Industries, Funedesin/Yachana, and ongoing collaboration with The Development Communications Workshop.
Tony first teamed up with CAVU in 2007 for editing and post-production on Voces del Darién. Assisting on the second shoot and taking full advantage of the CAVU mobile edit suite, Tony completed his first ever “field edit” – a unique and exciting opportunity to craft the film’s story, structure and style with the benefit of immediate feedback from not just the crew but also the communities and organizations featured in the film.
Though he studied Spanish throughout his academic career, Tony became truly captivated with the language while attending the Universidad Complutense in Madrid, Spain and then again throughout each of his travels in Latin America. When not editing, he also teaches English as a Second Language and tutors students of both multimedia and mathematics.

Brian Wilson


Brian Wilson graduated from Brown University with a degree in Comparative Literature and History, and works as an editor in New York. Passionate about the natural world and its protection and restoration, he is pleased to be exploring and raising awareness about green burial with A Will for the Woods. He became interested in developing deeper insight into death after his mother died in 2008, and has been grateful to find it through working on this project, which he hopes will offer similar comfort and understanding to many viewers.

Garrick Dutcher

Dutcher Film Productions
Cinematographer: “Agua Salvadora”; “Voces del Darien”; “Nuestras Aguas; Nuestra Vida”; “Agua…Mas Que un Tubo”; “Cockscomb: Jaguar Proud”

Garrick Dutcher joined CAVU in 2005 as a Cameraman for its projects in El Salvador and Panama. Apprenticed by one of the best in the industry, Garrick utilizes a range of film and video formats and implements an extensive repertoire of production techniques to bring captivating and stunning images to the screen. His familiarity with Latin American cultures and language allows him to capture intimate insight into the human story.

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Garrick, an Idaho native, developed his love of nature, wildlife and the outdoors from his father, Primetime Emmy Award winning cinematographer, Jim Dutcher. Jim taught Garrick at a young age important lessons for filming in the field, including patience, waiting for the right moment, and understanding animal behavior. Garrick worked on his father’s films about wolves, cougars and beavers for National Geographic and the Discovery Channel. Each film taught Garrick valuable lessons and his contributions grew as he honed his cinematography skills. Most recently, in Living with Wolves for the Discovery Channel, Garrick worked as both Cameraman and Production Manager.
Garrick attended The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, majoring in Environmental Studies. During his final year of undergraduate studies, Garrick attended Centro de Investigaciones en Medio Ambiente y Salud (CIMAS) in Quito, Ecuador. CIMAS is a non-profit academic and research organization that studies the effects of development on the health and environment of Latin America. For his thesis, Garrick produced a photo-documentary, Oil in the Amazon, which earned highest honors. It was during this project and his year in Ecuador that Garrick developed his compassion for the plight of the rural citizens of Latin America.
Garrick further trained at the International Film and Video Workshops in Rockport, Maine and the High Def Expo Workshops in Chicago.
Garrick lives with his wife, Kirstin in Ketchum, Idaho and enjoys mountaineering, skiing, mountain biking, fly-fishing, bird watching, gardening, and exploring different cultures and environments in South East Asia, Africa, Europe, and Latin America.

Kai Benson

Cameraman/ Cinematographer: “Voces del Darien”; “Nuestras Aguas; Nuestra Vida”; “Agua…Mas Que un Tubo”.

Raised in South Africa on a British Passport and a mother from Finland, but making his home Peru, Kai brings a special spice to the look and feel of CAVU’s wildlife and aerial photography. He was taught to hold a camera by the great underwater cinematogrpher, Rick Rosenthal, and venture with same into waters arounds the world. However, in Peru, you can find Kai practicing the art at the most difficult locations – under enormous surf breaks, where he capture the best surfers in action. Rugged, adventursome and always hungry for more, Kai also carries with him a passion for conservation of our world – particularly the world’s oceans.
Kai’s skills with a camera are second to none, and every image captured for CAVU is a jewel.

Bernal Arce Benavides

Flight Services

Bernal was born in San Carlos, one of Costa Rica’s most impressive rural areas in terms of landscape and biodiversity. When he was 13, he went to live in San José, where he learned auto body repair and painting in some of the city’s best shops. In the San José of ’79, Bernal sang disco fever top hits in a perfect English he did not yet understand. That’s how he began to learn a language he now speaks like a native.

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Alfredo Peralta, without doubt a great mentor, continued paying the English classes Bernal had enrolled in. He also put him in charge of his aircraft’s maintenance. Since the day he asked him to paint his plane’s wings, a task he excelled in thanks to his auto experience, his life took a turn towards the Tobías Bolaños Airport. That’s where he met David S. Smith in the late ’90s. David knew immediately no one could give CAVU better flight services than Bernal.
With his company, Aircraft Finishes, Bernal keeps busy doing what he does best. Nonetheless, he always seems to find time for his five children and supporting non-for-profit organizations like CAVU.

Dave Sherwood

Researcher and writer

Dave Sherwood is an award-winning environmental journalist and photographer based in Maine.
Researcher and writer Dave Sherwood is an award-winning environmental journalist and photographer based in Maine.
Dave is a regular contributor to The New York Times, National Geographic News, The Miami Herald, The Weather Channel, Audubon Magazine and The Christian Science Monitor, among others.

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Over the past several years, he has covered such issues as the fate of Costa Rica’s most remote wildlife refuges, the decline of tropical fisheries in the eastern Pacific Ocean and the increasing pressures of the pet trade on endangered species.
Dave developed his passion for the environment and outdoors as a child, fishing, hunting, hiking and birding in his native New England, where he has worked as a canoe camping guide, saltwater fly fishing charter boat captain and outdoor writer for one of Maine’s leading newspapers. He speaks fluent English and Spanish (mother from Córdoba, Spain).
To see more of Dave’s work, visit his website at www.wildfilephoto.com.

Alex Cavaletti

Volunteer Pilot and Costa Rica Program Consultant

Born in Milano, Italy, Alex grew up in South Africa, Saudi Arabia and attended boarding school at Winchester College in England.
Alex began flying extensively in Costa Rica with his close friend Greg Gund and has piloted his own aircfraft since 2002.
He learned about CAVU through his love for the environment, specifically the Osa Peninsula, after a meeting with Manuel Ramirez of Conservation Internatonal.
Alex holds a commercial pilot rating and has resided in Costa Rica for 20 years and is an integral part of CAVU’S team, flying missions in Costa Rica, Belize and Panama.

J Patrick Cudahy


J Patrick Cudahy is an aerial photographer and pilot, dividing his time between the southern coasts of Costa Rica and California.He was born in Chicago, Illinois, raised in Ketchum, Idaho, and earned a degree in California. With camera and trained eye, he is dedicated to helping people make smart decisions about our natural world. Lately, he can often be found in the slipstream at or below 3000 feet with a camera sticking out of the window.

Sean Davis


Sean Davis is an American professional photographer currently living in Costa Rica. Over the last several years Sean has donated innumerable long days to CAVU, designing and building highly technical equipment for our aerial photographic missions, creating complex maps – and taking stunning oblique photographs almost as an aside. Sean has become an integral part of our team.

Our Support Team

The CAVU Team enjoys tremendous support and partnerships with the following:

Carol Aubin
Trails Edge

Robert and Renee Innis
Rinse Design

Nancy Vaughan and Christi Williams
Armstrong, Vaughan & Associates