On December 7th, 2010, Mike Ebersole, interagency aviation officer for Grand Canyon National Park and the Kaibab National Forest, was honored by the Department of the Interior with two awards—the 2010 Secretary's Award For Outstanding Contribution to Aviation Safety and the Award of Honor For Safe Flying (Twenty Years). The awards were presented in Flagstaff, Arizona, by Jim Traub, NPS aviation specialist.
Mike Ebersole led the most complex year-round aviation program, in the most complex airspace, while flying more hours for the broadest mission profile, with more specialty programs than any other program in the NPS.
Outstanding Contribution to Aviation Safety
The Secretary's Award for Outstanding Contribution to Aviation Safety goes to only one employee annually in the DOI. The previous year, in 2009, Rennie Jackson, a now-retired ranger at Grand Teton National Park, received the award.
The DOI lauded Ebersole for being "a founding father of important policy changes with far reaching impact throughout the United States and international communities. These personal achievements are embedded within the National Parks Overflights Act of 1987 (PL 100–91) and the National Parks Air Tour Management Act of 2000 (PL 106–181)."
Ebersole retired December 31, 2010, following 36 years of federal service, 32 of those with the NPS at the Grand Canyon. A few highlights of his impressive career include:
- Accident-free flying as a DOI NPS fixed-wing pilot for 20 years (1983–2003), with 2,000+ hours.
- Wrote the first park aviation plan in the NPS in 1986. This went on to become the template for NPS 60 (Aviation Management), and later DO 60 and RM 60.
- Served as one of the primary authors of the Grand Canyon special flight rules area (SFRA), which created the flight-free zones and air tour corridors. The only one of its kind in the NPS, the SFRA was established in 1988 to enhance aviation safety and the natural quiet of Grand Canyon National Park.
- Was one of the primary authors of the 1995 "Report to Congress on Effects of Aircraft Overflights on the National Park System." To this day, the report is used by NPS units with overflights issues. In 1998, Ebersole led the park effort for the solicitation and eventual award of the state of the art, quiet technology exclusive use contract helicopter. Grand Canyon is the only land management program in the country to employ such an aircraft. That same model helicopter continues to be contracted by the park today.
- Created the web-based training course that continues to be a requirement of the DOI waiver to fly within the Grand Canyon SFRA.
- For several years, served as the NPS representative to the International Federal Partnership (IFP), composed of 16 agencies from three countries, for the Experimental Aircraft Association's Air Venture, the largest aviation event in the world with an average attendance of 700,000 to 800,000 people from 70 countries. As the NPS representative to the IFP, Mike also served as the incident commander of the NPS exhibits team and the aircraft coordinator for the IFP.
- Mentored and trained several current NPS fixed-wing pilots who went on to fly at Big Bend, Death Valley, Glen Canyon, and Yellowstone.
- Served as the only dedicated interagency aviation officer (Grand Canyon and Kaibab National Forest) in the NPS.
- According to the NPS Aviation Office in Boise, Ebersole led the most complex year-round aviation program, in the most complex airspace, while flying more hours for the broadest mission profile, with more specialty programs than any other program in the NPS. The nearest comparable operations are those of the U.S. Park Police Aviation Units in Washington D.C., New York, or San Francisco.
Last updated: December 7, 2017