The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds Air Demonstration Squadron Slot Pilot Thunderbird 4, Maj. Stephen Del Bagno, is identified as the pilot killed when an F-16 Fighting Falcon crashed over the Nevada Test and Training Range on April 4, 2018, at approximately 10:30 a.m. during a routine aerial demonstration training flight.
“We are mourning the loss of Major Del Bagno,” said Brig. Gen. Jeannie Leavitt, 57th Wing commander. “He was an integral part of our team and our hearts are heavy with his loss. We ask everyone to provide his family and friends the space to heal during this difficult time.”
An investigation is being conducted into the cause of the mishap.
The team’s participation at the March Air Reserve Base “The March Field Air & Space Expo” has been cancelled. It is unknown how this accident will impact the remainder of the 2018 Thunderbirds Season.
The USAF Air Demonstration Squadron (“Thunderbirds”) is the air demonstration squadron of the United States Air Force (USAF). The Thunderbirds are assigned to the 57th Wing, and are based at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.
Created in 1953, the USAF Thunderbirds are the third oldest formal flying aerobatic team (under the same name) in the world, after the prestigious French Air Force Patrouille de France formed in 1931 and the United States Navy Blue Angels formed in 1946.
The F-16 crash was one of the four aviation incidents involving a U.S. military aircraft this week.
On April 3, an AV-8B Harrier II ground-attack aircraft from the U.S. Marines Corps (USMC) 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) crashed at Djibouti Ambouli International Airport. The pilot ejected and was evaluated and released by the expeditionary medical facility at Camp Lemonnier.
In a separate incident, a Marine CH-53 Super Stallion heavy-lift helicopter from the 26th MEU suffered structural damage during a landing at an approved exercise landing zone at Arta Beach, Djibouti. The aircrew were not injured during the landing and the helicopter has remained at the landing site pending additional assessment.
Both the Harrier and the CH-53 were participating in Exercise Alligator Dagger, a training exercise in international waters off the coast of Djibouti.
In an unrelated incident on the same day, a USMC CH-53E Super Stallion heavy-lift helicopter crashed in the vicinity of Naval Air Facility El Centro, California during a routine training mission along the U.S.-Mexico border, killing four crew members.