Saturday, November 17, 2018

North American P-51D Mustang, N4132A: Fatal accident occurred November 17, 2018 near Gillespie County Airport (T82), Fredericksburg, Texas

The National Transportation Safety Board traveled to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entities:

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; San Antonio, Texas
Appareo Systems; Fargo, North Dakota 

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Fredericksburg, TX

Accident Number: CEN19FA028
Date & Time: 11/17/2018, 1515 CST
Registration: N4132A
Aircraft: North American P51
Injuries: 2 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 

On November 17, 2018, about 1515 central standard time, a North American P51 D airplane, N4132A, impacted an apartment parking lot near Fredericksburg, Texas, following maneuvers. The commercial pilot and the passengers sustained fatal injuries. The airplane was destroyed during the impact. The airplane was registered to Pea Hochso LLC and operated by the pilot as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. Day visual meteorological conditions prevailed in the area about the time of the accident, and the flight was not operated on a flight plan. The local flight originated about 1459 from the Gillespie County Airport(T82), near Fredericksburg, Texas.

According to a lineman at T82, the airplane arrived about 0915 for the first time that day. Five flights with passengers were scheduled. Once the first passenger arrived, the pilot took off and returned with no issues. After the airplane shut down, the pilot requested 50 gallons of 100 low lead aviation gasoline per side. The pilot then asked the lineman to assist loading the second passenger about 1050. The pilot then used a ladder to set up a camera on the tip of the airplane's tail. This flight returned without any incidents. Later in the day, the pilot requested further assistance with his third passenger. At 1442, the lineman met the pilot at the airplane where they then used the ladder again to set up his camera. About 1444 pm a passenger arrived at the airplane. They then repositioned the ladder, the passenger was loaded, and the airplane departed the airport. The lineman reported that during this service and the previous services that day, no mechanical issues or oil spots on the ground were noted with the airplane.

A witness in the parking lot stated that the airplane climbed and descended nose down. The airplane impacted terrain and the "back" of the airplane separated and came to rest on nearby parked vehicles. The witness stated that the airplane impacted "so hard" it had "blown up." However, there were no flames.

The 73-year-old pilot held a Federal Aviation Administration commercial pilot certificate with airplane single and multi-engine, and instrument ratings. He also held a FAA second-class airman medical certificate which was issued on December 5, 2017.

N4132A, a North American P51 D, Mustang, serial number 122-40985, was an all-metal, laminar flow, low-wing monoplane. The airplane's ailerons, elevators, and rudder were conventionally operated by a control stick and rudder pedals. The airplane was powered by a twelve-cylinder, overhead cam, liquid cooled, V-type, supercharged, Rolls Royce V-1650-7 engine, serial number V-331281. According to copies of the aircraft's logbook entries, an annual inspection was completed on March 8, 2018. The aircraft had accumulated 1812.9 hours of total time at the time of that annual inspection.

At 1515, the recorded weather at T82, was: Wind 190° at 11 knots; visibility 10 statute miles; sky condition broken clouds at 3,900 ft; temperature 20° C; dew point 10° C; altimeter 30.04 inches of mercury.

An on-scene investigation was conducted. The airplane wreckage came to rest in a parking lot about 2.5 miles and 70° from T82. Linear witness marks were found on the ground under the leading edges of the wings. The leading edge of both airplane wings exhibited rearward crushing. Red and green colored media consistent with glass was found near the wing's respective separated navigation light holders. The engine and its propeller were found impacted in terrain about five feet below grade. Three of the propeller blades were separated from the propeller hub. The three separated blades exhibited chordwise abrasion and nearby black top pavement exhibited a witness mark consistent with a propeller strike. One propeller blade exhibited leading edge gouges. The empennage was separated from the fuselage forward of the tailwheel. The empennage came to rest inverted on parked cars about 68 ft and 310° from the engine. The fuselage and cockpit were fragmented mostly in a debris path between the engine and empennage. Flight and engine control continuity was not able to be established. However, all observed separations exhibited features consistent with overload. The magneto switch was fragmented. However, its face plate exhibited it was in the both position. The fuel valve was found in the debris path. Some of the fuel lines were separated from the valve body. The fuel bladders were found breached. The rear section of the engine separated from its front section. The engine's compressor blades were intact. The propeller hub was not able to rotate when a its attached blade had a rotational force applied to it by hand.

A GoPro camera mount was found in a grass area north of the wreckage debris field. The mount did not contain a GoPro camera. Another GoPro mount and camera were found within the debris field. However, the camera's SD card was not present.

The Gillespie County Justice of the Peace was asked to arrange an autopsy on the pilot and to have toxicological samples taken.

A Stratus unit was found damaged in the wreckage and will be sent to the National Transportation Safety Board Vehicle Recorder Laboratory to see if it contains data in reference to the accident flight. Additionally, the recovery company subsequently recovered an SD card during wreckage recovery. The SD card will also be sent to the recorder laboratory to see if it contains data in reference to the accident flight.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: North American
Registration: N4132A
Model/Series: P51 D
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: No
Operator: Pilot
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KT82, 1695 ft msl
Observation Time: 1515 CST
Distance from Accident Site: 2 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 20°C / 10°C
Lowest Cloud Condition:
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 11 knots / , 190°
Lowest Ceiling: Broken / 3900 ft agl
Visibility: 10 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.04 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Fredericksburg, TX (T82)
Destination: Fredericksburg, TX (T82)

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 2 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude:  30.275278, -98.900000 (est)

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board investigation may contact them by email, and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email

Cowden Ward Jr. was killed November 17th when the North American P-51D Mustang crashed into an apartment complex parking lot in Fredericksburg, Texas.

Vince Losada, left, was identified as one of the victims in a plane crash in Fredericksburg on Saturday afternoon that killed two. Losada was a World War II veteran.

World War II veteran Vincent Losada suffered two grim experiences in airplanes: in the first, during the war, he lost his arm; in the second, Saturday, he lost his life.

The 93-year-old San Antonio man was one of two people killed in a plane crash in Fredericksburg. The other, pilot Cowden Clark Ward, Jr., was a 73-year-old Burnet man known for offering free flights to veterans in his vintage, modified Mustang P-51D.

That's the plane the two were in when they crashed into the parking lot of the Creekside Apartment complex located at 707 South Creek Street in Fredericksburg. The collision occurred around 3:15 Saturday, more than 73 years after Losada lost his arm in a mission over Germany.

He had joined the Army Air Corps immediately after finishing high school in Cleveland and became a 1st lieutenant and bombardier on a B-17 Flying Fortress within a few years, according to a brief biography on D. Clarke Evans Photographer’s website. They called his plane “Big Drip Jr.”

On March 15, 1945, he and his group were targeting Oranienburg, Germany. It was Losado's 25th — and as it turned out, his last — mission, according to the website. It was right after they had dropped their bombs that an anti-aircraft round burst near the nose of Losada's bomber, and a piece of shrapnel severed his right arm.

The crew gave him all the morphine they had and applied a tourniquet to his arm. Though he almost bled to death, he said on the photographer's website, he never lost consciousness on the 3½-hour flight back to England. He was then sent back to the U.S. in a ½ body cast. He was treated and recovered in Temple.

Though the mission cost him his arm, he didn't feel bad about it, he wrote.

"I am most proud that I served," he wrote on the website. "The worst day was my last mission, when I was hit, I knew it was serious. I never regretted being in the service, and I never felt bad about my injury. I was just glad I got back alive."

Upon his return, he worked in the budget and fiscal office until his retirement from the Army in 1947, the website said. He worked in insurance after that, first in Cleveland, then, when he decided it was too cold, in San Antonio, until 1969.

He also joined the “Possibilities Unlimited Club” — an exclusive amputee group — in 1948, where he had the opportunity to participate in unique football and baseball leagues, according to a 2015 post on World War II veterans’ memories Facebook page.

In 2017, he got a chance to ride in a B-17 again, a short flight from San Marcos to San Antonio that was part of the national Wings of Freedom tour organized by the Collings Foundation in Stow, Massachusetts.

Waiting for the plane to takeoff, Losada recalled his World War II days.

“The memories are real — just remembering them,” he told the Express-News at the time.

The P-51 he was in when he died was often used to escort B-17 bombers. The National Transportation Safety Board is investing the crash.

Losada's wife, son and two grandsons all preceded him in death, obituary records show.

FREDERICKSBURG, Texas (AP) — The 93-year-old passenger who was killed when a World War II-era fighter aircraft crashed in South Texas had been a WWII pilot, according to group that arranges fighter plane rides for veterans.

The P-51D Mustang had just participated in a flyby Saturday when it crashed in Fredericksburg, about 70 miles (110 kilometers) north of San Antonio. The pilot was also killed.

Texas Department of Public Safety Sgt. Orlando Moreno on Monday identified the pilot as 73-year-old Cowden Ward Jr. of Burnet and his passenger as Vincent Losada, 93, of San Antonio.

Freedom Flyers posted on Facebook that Ward was flying an "honored passenger, a WWII B17 pilot" when he crashed. Ward was the founder of Freedom Flyers and often flew veterans in his plane, which was deployed in World War II and the Korean War, the group said.

"Cowden was a civilian, but he had the highest respect for our nation's servicemen and women, more than anyone else I have ever known," his friend, Kayla Segerstrom, told the San Antonio Express-News.

Ward's plane, named Pecos Bill, was taking part in ceremonies Saturday organized by the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg. The day included a battle re-enactment showcasing WWII equipment and weapons.

Chris Arntz, an Army veteran who attended the program with his wife and daughter, told the Express-News that Ward's plane had just flown over the crowd when it appeared to nose dive beyond a tree line.

"I told my wife, 'I'm pretty sure that plane just crashed,'" said Arntz, explaining that there was no loud explosion or any other indication of a crash as the program continued uninterrupted. He learned later upon returning home that his suspicion was correct.

The plane crashed into the parking lot of a nearby apartment complex, damaging vehicles. No one on the ground was hurt.

The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration are investigating.

The pilot from the deadly plane crash in Fredericksburg on Saturday has been identified.

Two people, including a WWII veteran, were killed when a vintage airplane crashed into the parking lot of an apartment complex during a World War II re-enactment show.

Cowden Ward Jr. was flying the North American Aviation P-51 Mustang during the re-enactment event put on by the National Museum of the Pacific War when it crashed around 3:15 p.m.

Cowden Ward Jr. is from Burnet and was the pilot and owner of Pecos Bill, the North American P-51D that crashed. According to the Freedom Flyers, Bowden honored over 130 WWII Veterans and Purple Heart Recipients veterans with flights in his P51 - completely free of charge - to thank them for their service to our country. He also did fly-over tributes at WWII Veterans' funerals & events.

Cowden Ward Jr. was also involved with the Highland Lakes Squadron CAF.

The pilot's identity was confirmed in a Facebook post by Cal Pacific Airmotive Inc.

It is with a sad heart we share the news of the P-51D Pecos Bill accident that claimed the life of pilot Cowden Ward Jr. and his passenger, a WWII B17 veteran. Our condolences to Cowden's family, the family of his passenger and to the crew at Freedom Flyers. Their mission is to honor those who have served, and they have honored many. Our hearts go out to you at this time.

Oshkosh Warbirds Squadron #32, a chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Warbirds of America division, released the following statement to FOX 7 Austin following the crash.

Cowden Ward was well known in the warbirds (restored vintage military aircraft) community as a person who was truly passionate about honoring veterans.  As the owner and pilot of the restored WWII-era North American Aviation P-51 Mustang affectionately known as “Pecos Bill”, Cowden gave countless free rides to veterans in his airplane.  He was extremely generous with his time and airplane in doing this for veterans, particularly WWII vets.  It was his way to give back for their service to our country.  There are hundreds of people all over the country with stories about Cowden Ward’s generosity and passion for honoring veterans.  Cowden Ward was the kind of person that others in the warbird community looked up to.  He set the bar high as an example of how to honor veterans.  His loss is felt very deeply by all of us that own, fly, maintain, or admire vintage military aircraft.

Freedom Flyers released the following statement regarding the passing of Bowden:

"Bowden founded Freedom Flyers it was his mission to honor our nations veterans. He felt honored to be able to own and fly the plane and he wanted to share that with those who served our Nation. Cowden was a civilian but he had the highest respect for our nations service men and women, more than anyone else I have ever known. He was also a member of ICAS, the international council of airshows. He participated in airshows and events across the state and many other states. He would always honor a veteran or two with flights in the 51 at those events. Often times the Veterans he flew were people he had met while showing the plane on static display at these airshows. He could see their love for the plane and he knew how much it would mean to them to get to fly in one. The P51 is considered the Holy Grail of Warbirds and Vintage Aircraft, a flight in one is a once in a lifetime experience for most, and he loved sharing those flights more than anything else"

It was not immediately clear what caused the crash.

The identity of the WWII veteran is also unknown at this time.

Original article can be found here ➤


daveyl123 said...

We need to keep these historic aircraft as pristine artifacts of our national heritage. Flying such planes takes skill and knowledge beyond the levels of most pilots. The FAA ensures that pilots who fly these aircraft are specifically qualified in each type, but still, there are dozens of accidents occurring despite these precautions. P-51s are among the most coveted aircraft by warbird aficionados. Their zeal should be tempered with the admonition that they're playing with fire if they don't understand the hazardous characteristics of these aircraft.

Citation Driver said...


Anonymous said...

@daveyl123 - The best way to preserve a Mustang is to buy it and then not fly it. As for the rest of them, their respective owners are going to enjoy flying them. The good news about the Mustang is that it is one of the most numerous of the WWII era fighters. There are shops that can essentially build an entirely new plane from scratch, given a data plate as a seed.

Anonymous said...

Yes, a lot of the aircraft can be rebuilt. But certain items, notably correct model propellers are getting scarcer. Can't just bang out those blades in a sheet metal shop. Attrition is taking a toll.....

Kirk D. said...


Be Free said...

Saw the plane at the airport that day Saturday and took many pictures before the final flight and at the crash scene. Can I post pictures here?

Anonymous said...

for those who advocate grounding them all: an airplane hanging in a museum is like a stuffed bird - absolutely lifeless!!

Kirk D. said...

I have lost to friends in the last 30 years in P51 accidents. It is a damn difficult airplane to handle with zero room for even the smallest mistakes.

kell 490 said...

Actually most P-51's flying today have very little left from the original manufacture almost all the parts are made now by small shops that support these aircraft. The idea of grounding flying P-51's because the thought is can save some sort of history is not correct. The P-51 has 100 mph stall speed lot of pilots in WW2 were just killed in them taking off or landing. The wing was design for speed and long range not slow flight.

daveyl123 said...

The P-51 does have its issues. Flying Magazine's contributing editor, Len Morgan, described his experiences with the aircraft. He said the torque was vicious, but that's about it as far as quirks and dangers. Other owners/pilots say you'd better watch those CHTs, and make sure the coolant reservoir is topped off before you fly it. My good friends, Mr. Bill Barnes, who was the son of Florence "Pancho" Barnes, and his passenger/mechanic, Cliff Hellwig, were killed in the crash of Bill's P-51. I watched another P-51 crash land at our home airport in Lancaster, CA (Fox Field) after the pilot attempted a dead stick landing. A Cessna 310 cut him off, so he executed a 180 degree turn about 100 feet over my head, and smacked the desert to the east in a wrenching impact. The old bird stood up fairly well, considering.

Anonymous said...

It's amazing any WWII airplanes are left to fly after all those young kids that flew them got done.

daveyl123 said...

You should have flying examples to show our young people how these planes looked and sounded, but you had better know how to fly them. You can equate the abilities of young pilots during WWII with these kids today. Little 8 year old children can text, phone, calculate and BFF with these handheld gizmos, while I'm trying to figure out how to switch them on. Prior to WWII, there were trainers with conventional landing gear, radial engines, and landing characteristics that demanded superior piloting. Those youngsters knew how to fly taildraggers, so the Mustang was just another plane they could master with little effort. Today, we have 400 hour private pilots who stall and spin modern aircraft into parking lots during a third go around, or spin twins to the ground trying to maneuver the birds onto final approach. Many pilots today can't fly like those kids of a bygone era who learned the basics in taildraggers.

Be Free said...

Have heard a few opinions from witnesses of the crash.

At first it seemed that the plane ran out of fuel because it was silent coming down, but that turned out to be wrong.

Then we hear of rolls at low altitude and that while rolling to the right the plane stalled and the pilot added throttle that caused the nose to dive. This sounded wrong as they were performing straight fly-by's and had a 93 year old disabled passenger.

Finally we hear that there was a loud boom that indicates that the engine exploded and that the pilot brought it straight down to a parking lot, that was surrounded by apartment buildings, in order not to hit a building and cause any more damage or injuries on the ground. This makes the most since. The pilot had very much experience with the plane and he had only a few seconds to decide what to do and chose to go straight in to save lives on the ground.

Rest in peace Patriot pilot and Veteran passenger.

daveyl123 said...

Be free, fooling around with -51s is fraught with perils. Your last scenario sounds plausible. I believe to this day that the pilot who flew Jane Wicker around the patch deliberately dove the aircraft to prevent flying into the crowd and the airliner that was positioned behind the spectators.

Anonymous said...

Be Free, as an eye witness and tenant at the property, and you are not, you are not doing a service here with your post.

It is not known yet if he plane ran out of gas. What is known is that their was no explosion. I was myself right on the crash site and the second one at the site.

Plane never rolled right. Period. If you check where it was last at doing the flyover and the site of the crash that would be obvious on any map.

Ever witness corroborated the silent approach before the crash followed by a loud engine restart, followed by it turning off again, to the boom of the crash followed by a secondary boom of the tail hitting the cars. Whether the pilot at that point controlled the crash or had no control of it is up to investigators now. But witnesses all saw it basically lost control at that point.

Be Free said...

Anonymous tenant at the property,
We were passing on comments by others from the last few days. If you re-read the post it says "few opinions from witnesses of the crash."

Thank you for clearing up that the plane did not roll to the right. It has been said by many that it did roll to the right and we have seen witnesses say as much on TV interviews. None of the stories of a roll sounded correct.

The real reason for the post was to honor the pilot, and all involved.

Unknown said...

I witnessed the entire flight of this airplane in the 15 minutes prior to the crash and also witnessed the maneuver that led to the nosedive and crash. I did not see the final crash due to a tree obstruction, but only missed the last second of the dive and the final 100 feet of AGL altitude. The plane had been flying low over the town of Fredericksburg from 3PM local up until the crash at 3:15PM. He was no more than 500 feet AGL as he passed over the main street area. On his final pass he departed to the north and made a right hand 180 sweeping turn which put him on a 180 degree southerly heading across the eastern side of the town. I have 7 seconds of video of the southbound heading and as my video ends, the plane begins to slightly increase its altitude. After bringing my camera phone down to my side, approximately 4 seconds after I stopped filming, the airplane made what appeared to be a deliberate right aileron roll. As the plane passed through full inverted, it immediately took a nose down position and began steep dive between 70-90 degrees. In less than 5 seconds it made impact with the ground. These are the facts and this was witnessed by one other adult person who was with me, and we both are pilots.

LPS Bailey bugs said...

The pilot was my very close friend, and I have been a part of the Freedom Flyers team for many years. Please share your witness info with the NTSB and let them do their job. Cowden was an incredibly capable high time pilot and the aircraft was meticulously maintained. We miss Cowden and grieve with the family of the veteran onboard. Both Men deserve our respect and only time and the NTSB report will tell what truly happened.

Unknown said...

Fuel starvation is my guess. We'll wait to see what the final report says though.

AcroCFI said...

Low slow aileron roll and hit the ground almost inverted the pilot witnesses say. What a shame.. Totally illegal and irresponsible way to kill the passenger and destroy property. This guy...