Pilot killed in gyroplane crash in Wrens, Ga.

Friday, June 8, 2012 9:56 PM
Last updated Saturday, June 9, 2012 6:16 AM
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WRENS, Ga. -- A Bluffton, S.C., man died Friday afternoon when his gyroplane crashed at the edge of a field in Wrens less than a mile from the city’s airport.

Jefferson County Sheriff's Investigator Barrow Walden and deputy coroner Faye McGahee walk away from the scene of a gyroplane crash in Wrens on Friday.  PARISH HOWARD/MORRIS NEWS SERVICE
PARISH HOWARD/MORRIS NEWS SERVICE
Jefferson County Sheriff's Investigator Barrow Walden and deputy coroner Faye McGahee walk away from the scene of a gyroplane crash in Wrens on Friday.

Christopher William Bowen, 55, was attending the Wrens-O.B. Brown Memorial Fly-In and had not been long signed into the event when the incident occurred just after 4 p.m.

The Fly-In, hosted by the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Chapter 172, attracts small planes, ultralights, paraplanes and other aircraft like the gyroplane. Also known as gyrocopters, gyroplanes are small aircraft that use an unpowered rotor for lift and a propeller for thrust.

Pilot Barry Kroeplin, 52, of Charlotte, N.C., was flying his own gyroplane when he saw Bowen’s plane go down and burst into flames.

“When I got here today Chris already had his rotor on,” Kroeplin said. “We talked for a little bit and then he took off.”

Kroeplin was not far behind him.

“He flew around the airport 10 or 15 times and then flew out over the fields,” Kroeplin said. “I wasn’t more than a mile or half mile behind him. I saw him make a turn and then he just kept going down.”

Kroeplin said he has been at events with Bowen across the southeast for about three years.

“I didn’t see anything fall off the plane or it do anything odd or anything,” Kroeplin said. “He just made that turn and went down ... I know he had good training. I’ve seen him fly a lot of times. He was a good pilot.”

According to an FAA online registry, Bowen was issued his student pilot’s license May 7, 2010, and his gyro was registered Sept. 2, 2010.

A spokesman for the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office said they were turning the investigation over to the National Transportation Safety Board.

John Magnan, the secretary of the EAA Chapter 172, said Wrens has been holding fly-ins twice a year since the mid-1990s.

“In the fall, we sometimes get 15 or 20 gyroplanes,” Magnan said. “They look a lot like a helicopter, but they take off like an airplane. They can land straight down like a helicopter though. They’re a lot cheaper to fly than a helicopter and are normally very safe aircraft.”

Magnan said there have been incidents before where aircraft have gone down hard, but this is the first fatal accident.

“I still believe these things are safer than regular planes,” Kroeplin said, pointing to his own gyro. “I fly both kinds and even after seeing that, I’m still much more comfortable in this.”

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CobaltGeorge
176996
Points
CobaltGeorge 06/09/12 - 05:51 am
2
0
Health

I think the first thing that needs investigating would be a possible health failure.. I also feel that they are the safest flying craft. Unless you lose a rotor or have a collective control problem, it is almost impossible to crash.

Frankie-B
48
Points
Frankie-B 06/09/12 - 07:34 am
4
0
That we could all pass away

That we could all pass away doing something we enjoy! God Bless his soul and his family, and keep the other participants safe.

Agree on the safety of this airframe. Most of the accidents I see tend to be pilot error, to include inattentive assembly/hurried pre-flight. If well maintained and properly operated the gyrocopter is quite safe.

boodroe
1980
Points
boodroe 06/09/12 - 07:36 am
4
0
Goodbye Sir

I feel sorry for the man's family but at least He died living life to the fullest I am sure his family will mourn for him Now He can fly with wings and never crash

JohnBrownAug
1962
Points
JohnBrownAug 06/09/12 - 10:22 am
2
0
My sympathy to the

My sympathy to the family.

Technical question, if you cut power, would it autorotate down safely?

CobaltGeorge
176996
Points
CobaltGeorge 06/09/12 - 11:53 am
2
0
JBA.....You can turn off the

JBA.....You can turn off the engine and auto-rotate safely.

JohnBrownAug
1962
Points
JohnBrownAug 06/09/12 - 05:57 pm
1
0
CG, thanks.

CG, thanks.

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