2012 Top 40 Under Forty: Thad M. Howell

Thad M. Howell


Rowan County Airport

Date of Birth: 4-9-76

Years in Aviation: 17

The son of a Pan Am pilot, Thad Howell was introduced to aviation at an early age. Whether it was picking his father up from the airport after trips, riding space-available on vacations, or daytrips to the Air and Space Museum, Howell knew aviation would play a significant role in his life.

Pursuing this aspiration, Howell attended Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach. In addition to academic course work, he also earned his pilot certificates. In his senior year, he completed an internship with American Airlines in their pilot recruitment office. He assisted staff throughout the interview process and represented the airline at hiring fairs. Howell graduated in 1999 with a B.S. in Aeronautical Science, along with his pilot ratings.

Howell was hired as a First Officer by American Eagle Airlines in 2000, where he flew turbo-prop aircraft throughout the Caribbean and jet aircraft domestically. In 2008, Howell was hired by Rowan County as the airport manager, which included operating the county-owned FBO, and was promoted to director a year later.

His achievements include facilitating lower instrument approach minimums, an apron resurfacing, upgrading security fencing, and acquiring land in the runway protection zone. He currently serves on the board of directors for the North Carolina Airports Association, the Metropolitan Planning Organization, and the Local Emergency Planning Committee. He has promoted the value of Rowan County Airport by working with the economic development commission and speaking to local civic groups, the chamber of commerce, as well as hosting several field trips throughout the year. He continues to fly in his off time, including Young Eagle flights for EAA 1083, a chapter based at his airport.