The world mourns the loss of Maj. Gen. William A. Anders, a legendary figure in the realms of space exploration and aviation in the Pacific Northwest, who tragically passed away on Friday morning at the age of 90 when the aircraft he was piloting crashed in the waters off of Jones Island. Aviation Law Group joins the world in that mourning.

The details of the crash and heart-wrenching video are available on other sites. Here, we’d like to pay tribute to one of the legends of space and aviation in the Pacific Northwest. Anders, who piloted the historic Apollo 8 mission, left an indelible mark on history and the Pacific Northwest aviation community.

Maj. Gen. William A. Anders was a distinguished astronaut, Air Force officer, and pilot, known for his pivotal role in the Apollo 8 mission. On Christmas Eve in 1968, Anders, along with Frank Borman and James Lovell, became one of the first humans to orbit the Moon. His iconic photograph “Earthrise,” (shown at the top of the post) taken during this mission, captured the beauty and fragility of our planet and is credited with inspiring the modern environmental movement.

In 1963, Anders was selected by NASA from a pool of thousands to join the astronaut program. His career in space exploration culminated in his role as the Lunar Module Pilot for Apollo 8.

Apollo 8 was arguably one of the riskiest and most daring missions in the Apollo program. It tested an untested Saturn 5 rocket design, pushed the command module and LEM longer than any prior flights, and tested the relight of the rocket in lunar orbit, which, if it had failed, would have left the astronauts stranded in orbit of the moon.

It set a number of firsts. The three crew of that mission were the first humans to leave Earth orbit, travel into Cislunar Space, see the dark side of the moon, and return to Earth. Reflecting on the mission years later, Jim Lovell, the command module pilot, estimated at the time that they had a one in three chance of returning. Apollo 8 was a complete success and provided a much-needed beacon of hope during a tumultuous year.

The best documentary ever made on Apollo 8

Beyond his contributions to space exploration, Anders had a profound impact on aviation in the Pacific Northwest and Washington State. After retiring from governmental service and a successful tenure in various executive roles, including Chairman and CEO of General Dynamics, Anders pursued his passion for aviation. He and his wife, Valerie, moved to Orcas Island, Washington, where they established the Anders Foundation, supporting educational and environmental causes.

In 1996, Anders founded the Heritage Flight Museum, initially centered around his P-51 Mustang, “Val-Halla.” The museum, now located at Skagit Regional Airport (BVS) in Burlington, Washington, has grown to house 14 aircraft, numerous military vehicles, and an extensive library of artifacts. The Heritage Flight Museum serves as a testament to Anders’ dedication to preserving aviation history and inspiring future generations.

The Heritage Flight Museum quickly became a cornerstone of aviation culture in Washington State. Under Anders’ leadership, the museum hosted numerous events, air shows, and educational programs, bringing together aviation enthusiasts, veterans, and the general public. The museum’s extensive collection includes not only aircraft but also artifacts that chronicle the rich history of aviation, particularly in the Pacific Northwest.

Anders’ contributions to aviation in Washington State extended beyond the museum. He played a significant role in fostering a community of aviation enthusiasts and professionals. His involvement in air racing, flying both “Val-Halla” and “Wampus Cat,” demonstrated his commitment to the aviation sport and his desire to push the boundaries of flying. His participation in the USAF Heritage Flight and Navy Legacy Flight teams highlighted his dedication to honoring the legacy of military aviation.

ALG Attorney, Casey DuBose, recently went to that museum and shares some photos below:

Anders’ influence in the Pacific Northwest aviation community was profound. He inspired countless individuals to pursue careers in aviation and aerospace, supported the preservation of historic aircraft, and promoted the importance of aviation history.

His passing is a profound loss for the aviation community and beyond. His contributions to space exploration, his commitment to preserving aviation history, and his dedication to environmental and educational causes have left an enduring legacy.

As we remember Maj. Gen. William A. Anders, Aviation Law Group, celebrates his extraordinary life, his trailblazing spirit, and the countless ways he has inspired us all.