WWII plane crashes into Hudson River during promotional flight

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Pilot William Gordon, who was flying the vintage World War II plane that went down in the Hudson River in New York, was remembered with a flyover at the American Airpower Museum on Saturday.

Gordon, 56, was flying the museum's P-47 Thunderbolt in a photo shoot Friday to promote the Bethpage Air Show when the plane went down.

He was scheduled to participate in the show.

"The pilot was a friend to us all and we send our deepest sympathy to his family and our friends at the American Airpower Museum," a statement from the event said. "The Bethpage Air Show will continue as planned, but with heavy hearts."

Gordon, from Key West, Florida, was honored with a "missing man" formation flyover, according to the museum.

"Bill Gordon was an extraordinary pilot, who understood the powerful message our aircraft represent in telling the story of American courage and valor, died after bringing the P-47 Thunderbolt to a forced landing in the Hudson River," said museum flight operations pilot Scott Clyman.

"The FAA will determine the reason for the inflight failure but we know this much: Bill was a nationally respected pilot and we were lucky to call him one of our own."

The plane crashed into the Hudson River after Gordon sent a distress signal, a spokesman for the New York City Police Department said.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the NYPD lifted the Thunderbolt out of the river on Saturday, officials said.

The plane, which is 36 feet long and has a wingspan of 40 feet, will be turned over to the Federal Aviation Administration for a full investigation, New York emergency officials said.

According to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, the Thunderbolt was a feared ground-attack aircraft.

"U.S. Army Air Forces commanders considered it one of the three premier American fighters, along with the P-51 Mustang and P-38 Lightning. The United States built more P-47s than any other fighter airplane," the Smithsonian says.

 

PIX11 digital producer Katherine Lam contributed to this report.