FAA honors McGowin Jr.

Published 3:24 pm Thursday, February 26, 2009

In a spacious hangar turned banquet hall in the community of Chapman, a native son was feted for his contributions to safe skies last Thursday night.

N. Floyd McGowin Jr., retired businessman and long-time lover of all things aviation-related, was honored by the Federal Aviation Association as a Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award winner.

Joining McGowin for the occasion were numerous military and commercial pilots, along with family, friends and representatives of the FAA, who all enjoyed a lavish buffet dinner together prior to the awards ceremony.

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A tour of the hangar left no doubt they were in the presence of a man who loves to explore the skies.

Hundreds of books, the vast majority of which were on some aspect of aviation, fill the shelves in McGowin’s hangar. There is enough aviation art displayed-much of it signed by the artist or by the pilot of the plane featured – to easily fill a large gallery.

The Master Pilot Award is given to pilots who have shown professionalism, skill and technical expertise by maintaining safe operations for 50 years or more.

McGowin first soloed in 1947 at the age of 16, after saving what he earned in after school and weekend jobs to pay for flight lessons.

The Yale grad served as a military pilot and later, as owner of Rocky Creek Logging Company, as a business pilot. McGowin also put in a decade as an acrobatic pilot, performing in air shows across the nation. He logged in nearly 14,000 hours of flight time during his 54 years in the pilot’s seat.

While he retired from pilot status when he turned 70, the seasoned aviator says he has remained “very involved and interested in aviation.”

McGowin is one of a group of aviation history enthusiasts seeking to build a $12 million museum adjacent to Maxwell AFB in Montgomery. The Wright Brothers Museum, named in honor of the two men considered to be the first to create a working airplane, would be a great tool in getting young people interested in math and science and the magic of flight, proponents say.