MISSOULA – Henry R. “Hank” Butzel died Aug. 18, 2011, at age 55 when the sailplane he was piloting crashed near Arco, Idaho. Hank was born in Schenectady, N.Y.
He is survived by his mother, Miriam Weisman Butzel of Niskayuna, N.Y.; and his sister, Marcia Butzel of Worcester, Mass. His father was the late Henry M. Butzel Jr.
Hank attended schools in Niskayuna, graduating from Niskayuna High in 1973. He then attended Hudson Valley Community College, earning an associate degree. At the same time, he went to Richmor Aviation in Scotia, N.Y., where he earned his pilot’s license.
Following this schooling, Hank moved to Colorado and then Montana, where he took further courses in aviation and earned his airframe and powerplant certification. For a number of years, he was employed in Havre flying commercial aircraft. He then moved to Missoula, where he resided for the past 34 years.
An accomplished pilot, Hank flew many types of aircraft – both sailplanes and hang gliders as well as his Boeing Stearman, his Cessna 172, and other commercial and private aircraft out of both Missoula and Hamilton. He provided pilot services for several conservation and forest health projects in western Montana and also worked from Stevensville as a U.S. Forest Service fire spotter. Hank was completing construction of a Rutan Long-Eze, a canard layout homebuilt aircraft.
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He was a member of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, Soaring Society of America, U.S. Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association, Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 517 and the Missoula Hang Gliding and Paragliding Club.
Meticulous and observant, calm and resourceful, Hank was a consummate aviator. He was remarkably knowledgeable and found pure joy in all aspects of flying. Hank also cared deeply about helping other people as well as the natural world. He quietly contributed his time and resources to many community organizations and projects, including Missoula Youth Homes, Young Eagles Program, Humane Society of Western Montana, Greenough Park, Montana Audubon, Great Burn Study Group, Friends of Two Rivers, Congregation Har Shalom, Missoula Art Museum and the Museum of Mountain Flying.
Donations in Hank’s memory may be sent to any of the organizations above or to others of your choice.
A memorial celebration of Hank’s life will be held at 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 17, at the Museum of Mountain Flying in Missoula.