FREDERICKSBURG, Texas — Following Saturday's fatal plane crash that killed two people, friends are remembering the pilot who has been identified as Cowden Ward Jr.
KVUE spoke with a few other pilots who knew Ward. They say he was not only a talented pilot but also very giving.
"Here was a guy that devoted his life not only to aviation but to help veterans, to help others learn to fly, and to help tell the story of aviation too," said Vernon Rooze.
Rooze has shared a hangar with Ward since 2017. They've been friends since 2004.
"One of the kindest, gentlest men you would ever meet. That had a heart with no limits ... he believed aviation was a gift that had to be shared," said Rooze.
John Craparo, a local pilot, met Ward early this year through aviation organizations and spoke with Ward on a monthly basis.
"He was a very sweet guy and really dedicated to aviation and the people in it ... I'd like to see him remembered as a patriot," said Craparo.
"It's just really incredible to see what he was able to do for so many people," said Dan Weyant, another local pilot who knew Ward.
They all say Ward flew for so much more than pleasure.
Cowden Ward Jr. is well known for his nonprofit, the Pecos Bill Freedom Flyers. He would take veterans and Purple Heart recipients up into the sky on the antique plane for "freedom flights" free of charge. The antique warplane he was flying was a P51-D Mustang called Pecos Bill.
Ward's passenger has been identified as a World War II veteran from San Antonio.
In a statement to KVUE, the organization said:
"We are devastated by the loss of our friend ... Cowden was an excellent pilot who loved flying his plane and he loved sharing that experience with our nation's veterans more than anything else. He honored over 130 veterans with flights in the P51 completely free of charge. He was truly an amazing man and the aviation world is mourning his loss."