We combine aircraft measurements (Second Texas Air Quality Study, Megacity Initiative: Local and Global Research Observations, Intercontinental Chemical Transport Experiment: Phase B) over the United States, Mexico, and the Pacific with a 3-D model (GEOS-Chem) to evaluate formaldehyde column (?HCHO) retrievals from the Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) and assess the information they provide on HCHO across local to regional scales and urban to background regimes. OMI ?HCHO correlates well with columns derived from aircraft measurements and GEOS-Chem (R = 0.80). For the full data ensemble, OMI's mean bias is ?3% relative to aircraft-derived ?HCHO (?17% where ?HCHO > 5 × 1015 molecules cm?2) and ?8% relative to GEOS-Chem, within expected uncertainty for the retrieval. Some negative bias is expected for the satellite and model, given the plume sampling of many flights and averaging over the satellite and model footprints. Major axis regression for OMI versus aircraft and model columns yields slopes (95% confidence intervals) of 0.80 (0.62–1.03) and 0.98 (0.73–1.35), respectively, with no significant intercept. Aircraft measurements indicate that the normalized vertical HCHO distribution, required by the satellite retrieval, is well captured by GEOS-Chem, except near Mexico City. Using measured HCHO profiles in the retrieval algorithm does not improve satellite-aircraft agreement, suggesting that use of a global model to specify shape factors does not substantially degrade retrievals over polluted areas. While the OMI measurements show that biogenic volatile organic compounds dominate intra-annual and regional ?HCHO variability across the United States, smaller anthropogenic ?HCHO gradients are detectable at finer spatial scales (?20–200 km) near many urban areas.