Just before 9 a.m. Saturday Elzie “Bud” Warren, 70 and his daughter Phyllis J. Ridings, 52, both of Conroe departed Conroe airport in a Raven Experimental aircraft enroute to an airshow in Temple.
just after they cleared the runway Warren contacted the Conroe tower advising them the aircraft was filling with smoke. The tower gave them priority landing and advised the pilot to land on any runway he desired. The tower also called 911 and advised the Conroe Fiore Department of the situation.
At 9:03 a.m. a resident to the north of the airport stated he saw the aircraft with it’s engine at a high RPM come over then nose up fell back into the woods. He advised he could hear metal crunching then saw the smoke. At that point the tower, seeing the smoke notified Conroe Fire that there was a crash.
Conroe Fire Department attempted to make access off the field but were unable to. Contacting North Montgomery and Cut and Shoot Fire Department a gate along airport road to the north of the field was utilized. Crews were able to get trucks close but not right to the crash site due to the thick woods. They had to stretch lines and continue on foot. MCHD also responded to the scene.
The dry forest bed around the burning aircraft also caught fire. The Texas Forest Service was requested for assistance. They were able to cut a bulldozer line around the fire to stop it’s spread.
The two victims were found in the wreckage.
The FAA was notified along with Justice of the Peace Trey Spikes to pronounce the victims. An autopsy has been ordered in Conroe at the new forensic center.
While firefighters were in the woods fighting the blaze and officials were investigating the crash a white male approached the scene and attempted to gain access to the crash site. He was advised it wasn’t possible that everyone was being kept out of the scene. It was at that point he pulled a .45 pistol on a reporter, a firefighter and the airport manager Mike Manning. He then proceeded to run back to the crash site. Calls for assistance were quickly answered as DPS, Montgomery County Sheriff’s units and Conroe PD units started arriving. DPS was able to get the gun away from the subject and he was taken into custody. He was then transferred to an ambulance to be checked and taken to Conroe Regional Hospital.
The FAA advises security will be on the aircraft through the night until the National Transportation Safety Board arrives in Conroe Sunday morning to investigate.
The scene was cleared just after 3 p.m. with a fire unit standing by for spot fires.
Family members gathered in the main airport area as they were given the sad news by officials.
Mr. Warren was well known across the airport for many years. He had a hanger on the airport property and installed corvette engines in experimental aircraft.
Bud had over 50 years experience building and troubleshooting engines. He was born in 1940 in Springfield, Missouri and in 1958 he moved to Houston. Once in Houston Bud worked in the oilfield and aerospace industry in problem solving for a NASA subcontractor for Boeing Aircraft. Bud was instrumental in the development and perfecting of control instrumentation, and even built the valves that charged the fuel rockets for the Gemini Space Program.
Bud was a devoted Colonel of the Confederate Air Force and member of the Tora Tora Tora Squadron. There were no aircraft for him to take over and sponsor at the time, so he decided he would add one to the organization by finding a project and building one. After some time he found a BT-13 stuck in a muddy field in Galveston County, made the deal on the airplane and set out to try to get it home. After several days of working on it, he literally flew this old BT-13 out of the muddy field where it had sat stuck in the mud for years. He then totally rebuilt into a replica of a Val that is still flying today. This airplane is now a representative of the Commerative Air Force and still shows Bud Warrens name as master craftsman.
This is not Bud Warrens first brush with crashes. On October 18, 2007 as he was enroute to West Houston to talk with some members of the EAA Organization he noticed the oil temperature rise and the engine sputter. He and his two passengers made an emergency landing in a hayfield on Superior Road near Magnolia with the plane on fire. Forty-five seconds later the entire cockpit was in flames
His daughter, Phyllis Ridings was a passenger then also. When she was interviewed she said,”Nobody could believe we walked away, I give all the credit to God and my fathers flying skills, he saved our lives”.