Apollo 8 Astronaut William Anders Dies In Washington Plane Crash


Retired Maj. Gen. William Anders, former Apollo 8 astronaut, was killed Friday when the plane he was piloting crashed near the San Juan Islands in Washington.

His son, Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Greg Anders, confirmed the death to The Associated Press writing, “The family is devastated. He was a great pilot and we will miss him terribly.”

The FAA and NTSB stated that Anders was the sole occupant of the Beechcraft T-34 Mentor aircraft when it crashed into the water near Roche Harbor, Washington, around 11:40 a.m. local time. The crash is currently under investigation.

90-year-old Anders was best known for the 1968 Apollo 8 mission and taking the iconic “Earthrise” photo capturing the planet as a shadowed blue marble from space. He called the photo his most significant contribution to the space program.

Anders was selected as an astronaut by NASA in 1964 and served as the backup pilot for the Gemini 11 mission in 1966 and the Apollo 11 flight in 1969. According to the agency, Anders accumulated more than 6,000 hours of flight time.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson paid tribute to Anders on X, writing that Anders “traveled to the threshold of the Moon” in the Apollo 8 mission “and helped all of us see something else: ourselves. He embodied the lessons and the purpose of exploration. We will miss him.”    

Amelia Walsh
Amelia Walsh is a private pilot who enjoys flying her family’s Columbia 350. She is based in Colorado and loves all things outdoors including skiing, hiking, and camping.


    • Despite his age, Gen. Anders continued to fly, a testament to his enduring passion for aviation.
      Rest in peace, Maj. Gen. William Anders.

  1. Such skill, dedication, and guts.
    He, and all of Apollo 8 was an inspiration to the world.

  2. Go with God William Anders, you were part of the Right Stuff.

    The article had me thinking if I ever met a 90 year old pilot. If he was not a national hero, would he still be permitted to fly at 90 years old?

  3. Condolences to lt col greg anders and family. Will see what the accident report says.
    Medical? Mechanical?



  4. I respect all he accomplished, except maybe piloting a high performance airplane at 90. You got to know when to “hold them” and know when to “fold them”.

  5. Another article I saw said he was flying a T-34. A witness said it appeared he had done a loop too low, over the water, and didn’t have enough recovery altitude. It hit the water, skimmed across and exploded.

  6. Looked like he just wasn’t pulling hard enough. Unfortunately an illegal operation unless he had a low altitude waiver and approved low altitude area.
    2000 pilots over 80 in US
    Several over the years over 100 in US
    No regulations for private flying in US, that’s as it should be and that’s the way it should stay.
    If you want communism buy a one way ticket to Venezuela.

  7. Seeing his flight time listed immediately after his NASA accomplishments made me think of an amusing question: Do astronauts log flight time for the duration of their missions? That would be a heckuva way to build time…
    But perhaps they don’t because there’s no category and class of Rocket, Orbital…

  8. I have no problem with pilot’s flying into their 90s but the problem is not only that our flying skills deteriorate but so does our ability to self-assess those skills. We owe it to each other to say something if we notice concerning changes. And if the family is trying to take away our car/plane keys, that’s probably something we should listen to as well. I have no idea what the situation was in Anders case – just commenting in general. He was indeed a hero and I wouldn’t mind going out that way.

  9. Hero or not, I do hope the NTSB treats this as any other investigation and if they find fault with the pilot, say so.

    Watching that video, it seems that he was not doing a loop, but a split S as he started the maneuver at altitude, entered a dive with a pull up action that did not seem to have room. How many G’s was he experiencing in the pull up? Did he have the strength to to pull hard enough on the stick to recover?

    His career was exemplary and nothing changes that. Family and friends will grieve his loss. We will never know what involved his decision making to perform such an act, but as it caused the end of his life, at the least have it become a teachable moment to say, this was not good decision making.

  10. So sad to see. Few have the privilege and the accomplishment that that he had. Died doing what he loved. Flying! R.I.P. God bless.

  11. @haveaday1812
    2 days ago
    I have been Bill Anders pool guy for 2 years at his home in San Diego. I’ve met his family and had many wonderful conversations with him over the years. In fact, I spoke with him about a week ago before he left for his summer home in Washington. We spoke about still being able to fly after having his hip replacement. I’m shocked at this news and saddened. As someone who actually knew him, he was real life American hero. Never met a more accomplished human being, and who remained as humble as he was. Rest in peace Bill. I will miss our backyard afternoon conversations. Thanks for all you did for this nation.

    2 days ago
    Split-S maneuver, very risky in any airplane at low altitude, as the abort point for the maneuver is at the top.

  12. Split S maneuver:
    I have watched several videos and I don’t find any conclusive evidence that it was a spits S. The videos are just too poor and one has text that I can’t remove which compromises the value of the video.
    The statement that the abort point for a spit s is the top of the maneuver is nonsense. Even in the T34 the abort point would be at least 45 degrees nose down inverted. Roll upright and pull.
    That changes the flight path from 135 pitch attitude change to 45 degrees.
    The issue that concerns me is that the entire video shows a much lower rate of flight path change than I would expect in the T34. Even a likely hesitation at approximately vertical down. Raises the possibility of a health issue or a control issue. Unlikely we will ever know.
    Even in the Pitts I can do a 300′ diameter loop or a 1500′ diameter loop. Any time I was working at low altitude my first “out” was roll and pull and the second out, too far into the maneuver to allow the roll and pull, is simply to transition from a 3-3.5 G pull to a 7G pull. In other words I could transition to a vertical down line, at 300′ AGL pull 7 G and finish at 100′ AGL. The T34 cannot match the Pitts in that regard but it can come close.

  13. I could do 6G loops all day long at age 25. At age 60, I am not so sure, I haven’t tried lately. Maybe GLOC or close to it?
    If you remember reading the right stuff, this kind of FAR busting hijinks was totally normal for these guys back in the day. After reading about some of the things Chuck Yeager did, I wouldn’t have let him stand near my airplane, let alone fly it!
    I can think of worse things at 90 then to go out with your boots on, at least he was not doing anything that risked anyone but himself, no passengers, not over a house, etc. etc.

  14. Henry Haigh became Mens World Aerobatic Champion at age 65. In that era probably 7-8 positive G and nearly as much negative. The major age connected issue would be taking a years long break from aerobatics and trying to get back into it at an older age.
    What one would do with the T34, while staying within the G limits is not that physically demanding.
    The other question is whether the General had been doing aerobatics while at his winter home in San Diego and if not was the accident flight possibly his first aerobatic flight of the season.