One of the few remaining aviation icons of WWII has crashed into the Hudson River. The crash of the P-47 Thunderbolt occurred May 27, killing its pilot. The tragic flight was meant to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the P-47.
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While the historical aviation community is mourning the loss of veteran pilot William Gordon, 56, of Key West, Florida, it is also a loss for the American Airpower Museum on Long Island. It was their P-47 that crashed.
Gordon had more than 25 years of experience flying, and seemed to recognize that something was wrong with the plane moments before it crashed in the river. He’d turned back and left a the formation in which he was flying as smoke began billowing from the plane.
Divers from the New York City Police Department recovered his body Friday night.
Friends of Gordon flew a “missing man formation” over the museum on Saturday, not long before the P-47 was pulled from the river. The plane–nicknamed Jacky’s Revenge–was a regular flier, and one that the museum maintained for air-shows. Still, there are inherent risks that come with flying 75-year-old planes.
Gordon was “an extraordinary pilot who understood the powerful message our aircraft represent in telling the story of American courage and valor,” Scott Clyman, flight operations pilot for the Museum, said.
The plane was pulled from the river today, and will be examined by the National Transportation Safety Board and the FAA.
Hunter College student Siqi Li, had seen the planes moments before the crash. “It made kind of a U-turn, and then there was a stream of smoke coming from it,” Li said. “It was tilting down toward the water. I thought they were doing some sort of trick. I didn’t realize it at first, but it was a plane crash.”
The P47-Thunderbolts first went into service in 1942. They were the beefiest single-engine fighters in the Allied arsenal. They proved themselves after we’d gained air superiority in the war, and were exceptionally good at fast air-to-ground attacks.