NEW INFORMATION: Preliminary report released in fatal plane cras - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

NEW INFORMATION: Preliminary report released in fatal plane crash at airshow

(WQOW)- The National Transportation Safety Board issued a preliminary report on the fatal plane crash at a Steven's Point airshow.

Bill Cowden, who was from Menomonie, was performing tricks at the show on June 1 when his plane went down in a wooded area near the runway.

According to the report, no mechanical problems of the airplane were found during the post-accident examination that would have prevented normal operation. The report says the plane hit the ground nearly straight down and that it looks like the engine was producing power at the time of impact.

A handheld GPS and GoPro video camera were recovered from the wreckage and were sent to the NTSB for readout.

Cowden was scheduled to perform at Menomonie Airfest next week.



Eau Claire (WQOW) - An area pilot is being remembered after he was killed this weekend doing what friends say he loved most.

An airshow in Stevens Point over the weekend unexpectedly ended in tragedy. 47 year old Bill Cowden from Menomonie was killed. Cowden was doing a routine in the air when the plane went down. Police say no one else was hurt and the cause of the crash is still unknown.

We spoke with one of Cowden’s close friends, a fellow pilot, on Monday.

Bill Cowden was a man who liked to put on a show.

"The aerobatics was truly that extra excitement that I think Bill really missed after retiring from the F-16," said Jeff Overby, Aerobatic Team Manager.

Cowden had flown fighter jets for the North Dakota Air Guard. In his free time, he flew in airshows like the one held Sunday in Stevens Point.

"What he truly loved to do was so many tumbling maneuvers which the air show crowd just loved. They were amazed at when they could see his big Russian aircraft tumble literally end for end," Overby said.

But on Sunday, Cowden would attempt a trick that wound up being his last. He crashed into a wooded area near the Stevens Point municipal airport runway.

"Everyone just kept saying he's got to pull out, got to pull out. And he just never did," said Steven Marquardt, a Stevens Point man who witnessed the crash.

Bill had done interview moments before climbing into the cockpit for a final time. He was asked what kept him performing.

"We don't make a ton of money doing this, we do it for the love of aviation and to pass it on to younger generations and hope they get inspired by us," said Bill Cowden.

Cowden was planning to fly again in a few weeks, at the 2014 Menomonie Airfest Autorama.

"Bill certainly had a love for flying, but he certainly had a great love for his family. I think Bill would have wanted the show to go on, so we're just going to move forward, and we're going to continue to entertain crowds," Overby added.

Cowden is survived by his wife heather and his son Gunnar. Crews from the National Transportation Safety Board were in Stevens Point Monday investigating the crash.


STEVENS POINT (WQOW) – The Stevens Point Police Department have identified the pilot who died in a plane crash during an airshow Sunday as 47-year-old William Cowden, of Menomonie.Police say the crash happened just before 12:30 p.m. Sunday. They say the plane was performing tricks when it went down in a wooded area near the airport runway.

Officers say Cowden was flying a 1993 YAK-55M. They say he was pronounced dead at the scene. He was a scheduled performer for this year's show, police say. No other injuries were reported. The cause of the crash is still unknown, police say.

"It was into a wooded area, which is directly east of the airport, near the Green Circle Trail." said Sergeant Tony Babl of the Stevens Point Police Department. "From what detectives had told me, there was not, it didn't burst into flames, there wasn't a fire involved at all."

National Traffic Safety Board officials says they arrived on scene late Sunday night, but it was too dark to start the investigation, so it began Monday morning. As part of the investigation, they will be looking through the wreckage, weather reports, maintenance reports and video taken by witnesses.

"Oh I couldn't believe what I'm seeing there. The last couple of seconds he just didn't pull out, just a puff of smoke went to hit the ground and that was it," said Melvin Burskey of Neenah, who witnessed the crash.

"He was doing his routine and it looked like he was coming straight down, he's right beyond that tower out in the field and everybody's saying 'he's got to pull out, he's got to pull out' but he just never did," said another witness of the crash, Steven Marquardt of Stevens Point.

After the crash, organizers canceled the rest of the show and asked crowds to leave.

Police say they will stay at the scene until the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Traffic Safety Bureau arrive. Those agencies will take over the investigation.

**WAOW contributed to this report.
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