Engine Damage Causes Fatal Crash Over the Hudson River

The World War II vintage P-47 Thunderbolt that crashed into the Hudson River Friday, May 27, 2016, is lifted from the water Saturday. The pilot, William Gordon, 56, of Key West, Fla., died in the crash. Photo Credit: Craig Ruttle

A vintage World War II plane has crashed, according to federal investigators. It seems to be the result of an engine cylinder that was damaged on the plane that crashed in may in the Hudson River, located between New York and New Jersey. There was one fatality; William Gordon, the pilot, did not survive.

The American Airpower Museum in Farmingdale, NY is still in mourning the loss of their distinguished colleague. Gordon, who had moved to Key West, Florida, where he was living before the fatal crash, was a long-time veteran of airshows and aerobatic performances and was the chief pilot at the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome in Red Hook, New York for many years.

Over the course of his 25-year career as a pilot, Gordon flew the American Airpower Museum’s P-47D Thunderbolt many times, as well as several other planes in their collection.

The Museum was celebrating the 75th anniversary of the P-47 Thunderbolt’s first appearance in the skies. The first P-47 was flown on May 6th, 1941. The U.S. produced over 15,000 of this powerful single-engine fighter-bomber, which could weigh almost eight tons when fully loaded, between 1941 and 1945.

The Thunderbolt flown by Gordon is named “Jacky’s Revenge” and according to Warbird Registry was given to the Yugoslavian Air Force and was later a derelict, recovered, returned to the U.S., and restored to airworthiness in the early 1990s. There are very few P-47s left across the world and only about 14 are airworthy.

Newsday reported that the National Transportation Safety Board confirmed their findings are consistent with an “in-flight occurrence” prior to the crash. The pilot knew there was trouble and initiated a distress call to the air traffic controllers back on May 27th.

It was a P-47 Thunderbolt plane, which was being promoted on behalf of the American Airpower Museum on Long Island. The scuba divers that were sent to look for the pilot recovered his body several hours after the crash occurred; his name was Williams Gordon.

Earlier this month the federal report was issued, but it did not explain what caused the engine cylinder to malfunction or become damaged in the first place. However, it confirmed that oil was found on the exterior portion of the engine. There is still an ongoing investigation being conducted.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE