Local pilot earns award

Published 3:03 pm Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Ken Gilliland with B&G Flying Service in Clanton was named Aviation Maintenance Technician of the year for Alabama and Northwest Florida.

Ken Gilliland with B&G Flying Service in Clanton loves to fly above the clouds.

“There is something great about being up in the air and knowing nobody can get to you,” Gilliland said.

Gilliland, 60, has been flying airplanes and helicopters since 1973 and was named Aviation Maintenance Technician of the year for Alabama and Northwest Florida Nov. 16 by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The General Aviation Awards program has recognized a small group of aviation professionals in the fields of flight instruction, aviation maintenance, avionics, and flight safety for their important contributions to the aviation community.

Gilliland, who was nominated for the award, said he was shocked to find out he won and is still in amazement he was selected.

“I received a phone call telling me I had been selected as the winner and I am still having a hard time believing it,” Gilliland said. “I am just very honored and it is nice to be selected because it makes me feel like someone noticed the work that I have done.”

The General Aviation Awards program is a cooperative effort between the FAA and aviation industry sponsors to recognize annually outstanding individuals in the fields of avionics, flight instruction, and maintenance. In addition, the program recognizes outstanding individuals serving the FAA Safety Team (FAASTeam) as representatives.

FAASTeam program manager William Hattaway said in a letter addressed to Gilliland upon his recognition, “the aviation community is truly blessed to have someone with your knowledge, experience, expertise and willingness to contribute your time and resources to promote aviation and aviation safety.”

Those eligible for nominations for the General Aviation Awards must have been actively working within their respective aviation fields for a minimum of five years prior to application/nomination. Candidates must also hold valid FAA airman certificates appropriate to their respective fields if required.

Among some of Gilliland’s duties, he offers training to those learning to fly airplanes and helicopters at the Chilton County Airport.

Gilliland said his most enjoyable experience while flying for 39 years was having the opportunity to volunteer for Mercy Flight Southeast, a free transportation system for children and adults with medical needs.

“I used to fly these children who were sick to a hospital in Salt Lake City for cancer treatments,” Gilliland said. “Knowing that I helped those children out was something that meant a lot to me and I think being able to fly them meant a lot to me.”

Gilliland said he has always wanted to make a difference in his life and was humbled to find out he had been selected.

“I love flying and teaching others about aviation,” Gilliland said. “It is just a lot of fun.”