Stunt plane performed barrel roll before Coweta crash that killed 2, NTSB says

Nathan Sorenson (left), Mark Nowosielski
Nathan Sorenson (left), Mark Nowosielski

Credit: GoFundMe

Credit: GoFundMe

A stunt plane that crashed in Coweta County late last month performed a barrel roll just before the crash that killed two people, including a 13-year-old boy, authorities said.

Pilot Mark Nowosielski, 44, and aspiring aviator Nathan Sorenson, 13, were killed Jan. 25 when the small plane they were flying crashed in a wooded area near Senoia.

RELATED: 2 die in small plane crash in Coweta County

Sorenson was part of a family of flying enthusiasts who made their home at the privately owned “Big T” airport in Coweta County, where they regularly put on air shows, his older brother Brandon said Wednesday.

Nowosielski was a South African airline pilot who lived in Florida and flew 737s for Southwest Airlines, according to a GoFundMe account set up to raise money for his and Sorenson's families.

The 44-year-old was a longtime member of the U.S. Unlimited Aerobatic Team and one-half of the Twin Tigers Aerobatic Team, which was owned by Nathan’s father, Mark.

Mark Sorenson is lead pilot for the Twin Tigers and also flies jets for Southwest, according to his family.

“Like his father, mother, brother and air show friends, Nathan was ‘bit by the aviation bug’ and loved planes,” the family’s GoFundMe page said. “He was a fun-loving boy who dreamt of flying air shows and following in his daddy’s footsteps.”

Nathan Sorenson and his father, Mark.
Nathan Sorenson and his father, Mark.

Credit: GoFundMe

Credit: GoFundMe

According to witnesses and a video recorded by Brandon Sorenson from the ground, the Mustang II plane was flying in the area for about 15 minutes before performing a barrel roll and crashing shortly after that, the National Transportation Safety Board said in its preliminary crash report.

It’s still unclear exactly what caused the crash, but Sorenson said he witnessed the plane’s canopy come off in mid-flight before slamming into the tail and sending the aircraft to the ground.

At the time, they had already finished the barrel roll and were simply turning around to come back, he said.

Sorenson was recording the plane on his cellphone when he heard his stepmother screaming. He looked up in time to see the plane disappear behind the tree line.

“When I looked up, there were a bunch of pieces of the tail. It looked like glitter, it just looked like confetti in the sky,” Brandon Sorenson said. “My first instinct was to hurry up and get down to the scene of the accident and see if there was any hope.”

He hopped in his truck and rushed down Ga. 16 to the crash site, but soon realized when he saw the mangled plane that there were no survivors.

Neighbors consoled him and his stepmom as authorities responded to the scene.

The NTSB’s crash report notes that the airplane’s canopy latch was counter-intuitive, and a knob had to be rotated 180 degrees clockwise to secure the latch, and then 180 degrees counterclockwise to release it.

The plane was purchased just days before the wreck, and the fatal flight was young Nathan’s first formal aerobatic ride, his brother said.

“It’s a tragic situation, but we’re all aviators and air show performers,” Brandon Sorenson said. “We would never wish this on anybody and we hate it when we lose fellow aviators, but we understand that this happens in the industry we’re in.”

A memorial service for both families is scheduled for Saturday afternoon at Peach State Aerodome in Williamson. The service begins at 2 p.m and is open to the public.

A memorial service for both families is set for Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Peach State Aerodome in Williamson.
A memorial service for both families is set for Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Peach State Aerodome in Williamson.

Investigators are working to determine the cause of the wreck.