William S. Donaldson, 56, a retired Navy attack pilot and an aircraft crash investigator nationally recognized for his work investigating the explosion of TWA Flight 800, has died of a brain tumor.
Donaldson died Wednesday at the Charlotte Hall Veterans Home in St. Mary’s County, Md.
He was an All-State football player at the Rancocos Valley Regional High School in New Jersey where he won a football scholarship to the University of Maryland and has since been inducted into the RVRHS Hall of Fame. He joined the Navy and entered flight school in 1965 and in 1968 he flew more than 70 strike missions over North Vietnam and Laos in an A-4 Skyhawk off the aircraft carrier Intrepid. In later years, he was the air traffic control officer on the carrier Forrestal and flew an A-6 Intruder off the carrier Eisenhower. In the mid-1980s, he was assigned to NATO in Naples, Italy, as a nuclear-weapons targeting officer. Over his career, he held assignments as safety officer and had extensive training in aircraft crash investigation. He investigated numerous crashes, including one involving an aircraft that was accidentally shot down by a missile. Bill was awarded the Defense Meritorious Service Medal; the Air Medal, 7th Award; Navy Commendation Medal (with Combat “V”) and numerous other awards.
Donaldson retired from the Navy in 1991 and moved back to his family home on St. Clements Bay in Maryland where he took up farming and was appointed to the St. Mary’s County Planning and Zoning Commission.
In 1997, after reading an editorial by the chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board about the tragic crash of TWA Flight 800, Donaldson had a letter to the editor published in the Wall Street Journal. That began a four-year effort on Donaldson’s part to bring to light the true cause of the crash. Over that time he was interviewed on several hundred radio programs and appeared on several national TV broadcasts as an expert aircraft crash investigator and vocal critic of the NTSB and FBI investigation.
He founded the Associated Retired Aviation Professionals and started a website to document the many discrepancies in the “official” version of the crash. To the end, Donaldson remained committed to proving that the aircraft was shot down.
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