Hurricane Matthew turns Golden Isles hero into a hometown savior

  • Oct 11, 2016 1:15pm GMT

BRUNSWICK, GA -- “We don’t want to be a part of the problem. We want to be a part of the solution."

To give the community along Georgia's scenic coastline a top notch air show has been the dream for one hometown man who's love for aviation spurred him to work hard and overcome several obstacles to bring the Golden Isles its first air show in 20 years.

John L. Cowman, a native of the Brunswick region, took his love of aircraft to join the U.S. Air Force, and 34 years later, retired as a Chief Master Sergeant and manager of the C-130H program at Dobbins, ARB, near Atlanta.

After his retirement, Cowman formed JLC Airshows Management, and quickly began reconnecting with his flying buddies. The result was the beginning of four successful annual air shows known as the Wings Over North Georgia held in Rome.

The success of his air shows was contributed to his team and the flight line which ran like a well-oiled machine, providing the huge crowds excitement and thrills as top military and civilian aviators joined the Air Force veteran's team. Each year, the north Georgia air show grew in popularity as he continued to fine tune and give the public what they desired.

Cowman’s dream of bringing a show to his hometown shift after several months of efforts and attempts. An air show cancellation in Daytona set the stage to set previous plans into reality.

JLC Airshows Management spent 2014 and 2015 working with Brunswick's government, airport, and civic leaders to work the logistics and gain permission for an air show. And, in April 2016, John and his team won approval for the Wings Over the Golden Isles Airshow for that October.

However, his successful undertaking was later blown off course as a massive hurricane tracked northward toward the Georgia coastline. In the days before the first aircraft was scheduled to perform, hurricane Matthew, a category 4 storm with wind peaks of 140 m.p.h., forced the state's governor Nathan Deal to order a state of emergency. Glynn County officials then issued a voluntary evacuation and subsequent mandatory notice for the region.

Following the announcements, Cowman's countenance reflected the depth of the impact of a difficult decision he needed to make. He addressed his entire air show staff of managers and performers, including his teary-eyed family who witnessed their family member work long hours and travel from his home near Atlanta to head to the southeast coast each week.

"The reality of dealing with the impact of an approaching storm is incredibly difficult," Close friend and John's public relations manager Brenda Little said. "If you back out too early and the storm clears, you’ve negated the ability to recuperate the investment involving a lot of time and expense to prepare. You can’t deliver on the promises offered to advance ticket purchasers. The easy answer is to cancel when there is a solid reason to cancel, but when you’re part of a community, more is involved than just reputation, especially when it’s your hometown."