NEW INFORMATION: Report released on deadly airshow crash

By: Joe Nelson Email
By: Joe Nelson Email
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WASHINGTON (WEAU) -- A report from the National Transportation Safety Board sheds more light on what might have led to Menomonie pilot Bill Cowden's fatal crash during a Stevens Point air show earlier this month.

The report found that engine was likely producing power when the plane crashed to the ground, with no mechanical errors.

The National Transportation Safety Board recently released the preliminary report on the crash that killed Bill Cowden, 47. It says that video footage taken from the ground shows the plane had rotated more than three times before eventually spiraling down to the ground. The damage to the propeller blades showed that the engine was likely producing power when the plane hit the ground. Crews recovered a hand-held GPS and a GoPro video camera from the wreckage. The NTSB plans to analyze them at its lab.

Cowden's friend, flight team manager, and fellow pilot Jeff Overby said Cowden was performing a routine trick, called the “inverted flat spin,” that pilots do at every show they have.

Given the 47-year old Cowden’s years of experience, Overby suspects strong G-forces may have caused partial or complete loss of vision.

“Bill certainly pulled very hard at the bottom of a normal maneuver and then certainly, we saw some controls that were left in at all times, so there may be some definite indication that he was possibly blacked out all the way as a result of a tragic accident,” Overby said.

Last June, WEAU talked to Cowden, who was also an Air Force veteran and commercial airline pilot, about airshow safety, after a crash in Ohio, where he said these now-chilling words.

"Complacency is a big thing; it's a very dynamic field, that's why it's so important to leave yourself an out, to be high enough to have an option to get out of something,” Cowden said.

"It is inherently dangerous, and there is a higher level of risk associated with it, and that's why people come to see it."

Thursday, Overby agreed, saying he hopes the crash won't discourage pilots from flying, or fans from watching where safety is the priority and accidents are rare.

“I don't think it changes what we do, I just think it refocuses us to make sure we leave ourselves and out, focus on safety and continue to practice,” Overby said.

Cowden left behind a wife and son.

Overby said there are several plans to pay tribute to Cowden in the upcoming Menomonie Airfest and Autorama July 21 and 22 at the Menomonie Municipal Airport from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.


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