Tuesday 22 May 2018

Pilots pay tribute to comrade whose vintage plane crashed in river

The vintage P-47 Thunderbolt aircraft being placed on a heliport pier after it was removed from the Hudson River (AP)
The vintage P-47 Thunderbolt aircraft being placed on a heliport pier after it was removed from the Hudson River (AP)

Air show pilots performed an aerial salute to a comrade who died after his Second World War-era plane plunged into a New York river.

The P-47 Thunderbolt crashed on Friday night during a promotional flight for the American Airpower Museum on Long Island, which is celebrating the 75th anniversary of the P-47 this weekend.

The plane's pilot, William Gordon, 56, of Key West, Florida, was a veteran air show pilot with more than 25 years of experience.

New York City police scuba divers recovered his body from the wreckage of the downed aircraft on Friday night, about three hours after the accident.

As bagpipes played in the background on Saturday, pilots flew over the museum in an aerial salute known as a "missing man formation" in a tribute honouring Mr Gordon.

Scott Clyman, flight operations pilot for the American Airpower Museum, called Mr Gordon "an extraordinary pilot who understood the powerful message our aircraft represent in telling the story of American courage and valour".

He told fellow mourners at a service on Saturday that Mr Gordon had always been fascinated by Second World War fighter planes "and he quickly demonstrated the skill to master these demanding aircraft".

Promotional material for a Key West air show last month said Mr Gordon was an "aerobatic competency evaluator" who certified performers to perform low-level aerobatics.

The single-seat P-47 crashed on a part of the Hudson River near where a US Airways commercial jet carrying 155 people splash-landed safely in 2009 in what became known as the Miracle on the Hudson.

The plane was pulled from the water and loaded on to a barge on Saturday before it was taken to a heliport in lower Manhattan, where experts from the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board will examine it as part of their investigation.

The aircraft, which went down around 7:30pm local time on Friday, was among three planes that had departed from Republic Airport in Farmingdale, on Long Island, just east of New York City. The other two aircraft returned to the airport and landed safely.

A witness to the crash, Hunter College student Siqi Li, saw smoke spewing from the plane and thought it was doing a trick.

The P47-Thunderbolts were the heaviest single-engine fighter planes used by Allied forces in the Second World War. They first went into service in 1942, with the 56th Fighter Group based on Long Island.

Press Association

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