Ira Ellis “Bud” Coward, II, started his aviation career early at the age of 17; he was active in the South Carolina Wing of the Civil Air Patrol through high school and was appointed the Cadet Commander of the Aiken Composite Squadron. Coward obtained a commercial pilot certificate, became certified flight instructor, and achieved the coveted Air Transport Pilot certification.
Coward graduated from The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina, was commissioned as a US Air Force 2nd Lieutenant in 1970. He served on active duty from 1972 – 1976 in Laughlin, Texas and Newport News, Virginia. Following his active service, he was assigned as an Air Force Reserve Officer to the 437th Civil Engineering Squadron at Charleston AFB. After 28 years of service, he retired honorably in 1998.
Coward was the executive director of the South Carolina Division of Aeronautics from 1999 – 2004. During his tenure, the division developed the Comprehensive Aviation Information Reporting System (CAIRNS), extensively revised South Carolina Title 55 governing the Division of Aeronautics and public airports, and he participated in executing the first Memorandum of Understanding with the FAA SC Flight Standards District Office