Friends remember pilot’s love of flying

EDINBURG – A senior investigator for the state police who died in a plane crash Sunday is remembered for his dedication to his career and his passion for flying.

Timothy J. Cowper, 55, of Middle Grove, a senior investigator who worked for the state police for 30 years, was piloting the plane when the crash occurred at 3:50 p.m. in a wooded area adjacent to Tange Road near the Plateau Sky Ranch Airport, authorities said.

State police spokesman Mark Cepiel confirmed Cowper took off from the Edinburg airfield prior to the crash.

Cepiel said the National Transportation Safety Board is now involved in the investigation – along with the Federal Aviation Administration and state police – but further information on when the investigation may be complete was unavailable.

The cause of the crash is not yet known, authorities said.

One of Cowper’s flight instructors and friends, Tom Kravis, said he was a perfectionist in everything; both his pilot skills and the condition of his aircraft had to be just right.

“Tim was a delight to work with because of his passion for flying and his desire be the best pilot he could be,” said Kravis, who now lives in Colorado. “He was a classic ‘quick study.’ Show him something once and he has it forever.”

According to Kravis, this wasn’t Cowper’s first time being involved in a crash of an aircraft.

“A few years ago, Tim experienced an engine failure while flying. His actions were a textbook example of reverting to your training, staying calm and doing everything right,” Kravis said in an email. “He walked away from the downed airplane unhurt. Tim was totally proficient in his flying and his police work. This is a tragic loss for our close knit aviation community.”

However, Jim Peters of the FAA said a search of the accident/incident data system on Monday revealed no records of a previous accident.

FAA records did indicate Cowper was issued his flying certificate as a private pilot on July 20, 2009. He also held certificates as a light sport aircraft repairman and experimental aircraft builder, according to records.

“Tim was very enthusiastic about aviation and was a good friend,” said John Peck a former instructor and friend.

A source familiar with the situation, who asked to remain anonymous, said this morning that Cowper was at a picnic at the Plateau Sky Ranch Airport before he took off that afternoon to head home.

Another fellow pilot, George Donaldson, said he knew Cowper over the years and they took a trip together to the annual Experimental Aircraft Association AirVenture at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh,?Wis.

“I knew him very well,” Donaldson said. “I ran into him at Oshkosh this summer and my wife and I visited with him out there. He made it to Oshkosh several times.”

Donaldson said Cowper had a lot of experience flying, including a variety of different aircrafts.

“He organized weekend flying trips where they would fly to another airport for lunch and then fly back home,” Donaldson said. “He was very involved with things like that.”

Cowper’s death was recognized by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Monday.

“Through his years of service, [Cowper] helped make New York state safer for families just like his, and he will be greatly missed. My thoughts and prayers are with the friends and family of Senior Investigator Cowper,” Cuomo said in a news release.

According to the state police, Cowper began his career in 1983 and spent most of his career assigned to Troop G in the Capital Region. He also worked in Troop D in the Oneida area and in New York City. Cowper was assigned to Division Headquarters in 2004 and was promoted to the rank of senior investigator in 2006.

“The thoughts and prayers of the entire New York State Police family go out to Senior Investigator Cowper’s loved ones during this difficult time,” State Police Superintendent Joseph A. D’Amico said in a news release.

Cowper is survived by his wife, Chris; his daughters, Ryan and Jade, and his son, Zachary. He leaves behind his father, Thomas Cowper; and three brothers, state police Staff Inspector Thomas J. Cowper, retired trooper Tod Cowper and retired Schenectady Police Detective Terry Cowper.

According to a news release from the state police, witnesses notified 911 a single-engine plane had experienced difficulty and crash-landed.

Authorities said the plane crashed near the northern end of the Great Sacandaga Lake, north of the Batchellerville Bridge.

State police, the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Department, the Edinburg Volunteer Fire Department and emergency medical services responded to the scene and found a badly damaged small plane and Cowper’s body in the wreckage, authorities said.