Cmdr. William S. Donaldson III (1944 – August 22, 2001) was a United States Navy pilot with more than 24 years of experience in nearly all phases of naval aviation and Vietnam War veteran. He became famous as a critic of the US Government's TWA flight 800 investigation.
An All-State football player at Rancocas Valley Regional High School in New Jersey, Donaldson won a Football Scholarship to the University of Maryland. He has since been inducted into the Rancocas Valley Regional High School 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 USS Intrepid (CV-11).
Donaldson graduated from the Navy's Postgraduate Aviation Safety School in Monterey, California, where he completed the long course in aviation safety and crash investigation. He served as a safety officer and crash investigator at both the Squadron and Air Wing levels, and was qualified as a maintenance check pilot in six models of prop and jet aircraft. In later years he was a qualified Air Traffic Control Officer on the carrier USS Forrestal and flew an A-6 Intruder off the carrier USS Eisenhower. He served for two years as a Carrier Controlled Approach Officer.
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 and investigated numerous crashes, including one that was accidentally shot down by a missile. Donaldson was awarded the Defense Meritorious Service Medal; the Air Medal, 7th Award; Navy Commendation Medal (with Combat “V”) and numerous other medals and awards.
After his retirement in 1991, he moved back to his family home on St. Clements Bay 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 NTSB about the crash of TWA Flight 800, Bill had a letter to the editor published in the Wall Street Journal that began a 4 year effort 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 (ARAP) and started a website, to document the many discrepancies in the “official” version of the crash and to the end remained committed to proving that the aircraft was shot down by a missile, probably shoulder fired.
William Donaldson died of a brain tumor at the age of 56.
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