GRAND CANYON, Ariz. — Grand Canyon National Park recently congratulated U.S. Park Ranger Elizabeth “Betsy” Aurnou after she was presented as this year’s winner of the National Park Service Wright Brothers National Aviation Safety Award.

Aurnou was nominated by her team for her encouragement and leadership in removing historic, hazardous telephone lines from the main flight corridor inside the massive canyon.

Since 2020, she has worked collaboratively with many divisions to facilitate the removal of sections of telephone line from challenging and technical terrain within the inner canyon.

During the 2023 season, Aurnou helped facilitate the removal of hundreds of yards of telephone lines after learning of the dangers the existing lines posed to pilots and their crews. 

The 2023 NPS Wright Brothers National Aviation Safety Award recipient Betsy Aurnou stands next to historic telephone lines and a pole inside the inner canyon walls of Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, date unspecified | Photo courtesy of National Park Service, St. George News

“We are proud to recognize Betsy’s leadership and commitment to safety in the Grand Canyon Fire and Aviation Program,” Grand Canyon Superintendent Ed Keable said. “She is fully deserving of this award and continues to motivate her peers in increasing the safety of aviation operations in the Corridor of the inner canyon.”

Grand Canyon National Park has one of the busiest non-military federal aviation programs in the United States, yet this complicated issue remained unnoticed until Aurnou took heed.

Previously, hazard identification and avoidance were the park’s primary means to avoid aviation collisions with almost invisible telephone lines across the nation’s greatest canyon.

According to a media release, the National Park Service Wright Brothers National Aviation Safety Award recognizes an individual or organization at the park, regional or national level who proactively promotes an open-minded attitude in the prevention of aviation mishaps and accidents, and works diligently to correct and improve aviation safety deficiencies while communicating their actions and results to others.

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