Grand Canyon fixed wing pilot receives National Park Service Aviator of the Year

Galen Howell in front of a fixed wing aircraft, location and date unspecified | Photo courtesy of Williams-Grand Canyon News, St. George News

GRAND CANYON, Ariz. — Galen Howell, fixed wing pilot at Grand Canyon National Park, has been selected as the 2020 National Park Service Aviator of the Year.

This award recognizes an individual who has performed a mission or more of significant consequence and valor or has actively promoted the advancement or recognition of an national park service aviation program, mission or service. This award is given to one individual, once a year.

John Buehler, an aviation manager for the park service, said in a statement issued by the park, “Galen is a true asset to the entire NPS aviation program. His aviation knowledge, aviation skills, and dedication to the program is exceptional, and the NPS National Aviation Office is excited to have the opportunity to acknowledge his contributions.”

According to the statement, Howell has served the park service for 12 years as a Federal Aviation Administration certified flight instructor and Department of the Interior mentor pilot for the National Park Service Developmental Pilot Program. Howell is also recognized as an experienced and trusted pilot who provides basic and advanced flight operations training for new and experienced pilots. His skills and judgement have been called upon by the National Park Service National Fleet Aircraft and Pilot Specialist to determine a pilot’s ability to fly in the challenging environments found in the national parks.

Howell’s experience has earned him two in-flight action awards for safely and successfully dealing with in-flight emergencies, according to the statement. In addition to providing critical mentoring and training to park service pilot and pilot-candidates, Howell also teaches and provides mentoring to non-pilots under the Department of Interior Pinch-Hitter course.

Howell proactively trains to fly air-attack missions for wildland fire operations and annually supports interagency training for the Arizona National Guard, providing a realistic simulation for both Blackhawk helicopter pilots and ground crews.

“Howell’s continuous promotion and advancement of the NPS aviation program is above and beyond the standard pilot position and is a tremendous benefit to the NPS,” Buehler said.

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