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Thunderbirds Pilot Identified in Nevada F-16 Crash

Thunderbirds Pilot Identified in Nevada F-16 Crash

Maj. Stephen Del Bagno (Master Sgt. Christopher Boitz/U.S. Air Force Photo via AP)

By    |   Friday, 06 April 2018 11:37 AM EDT

The Thunderbirds pilot who died in an F-16 crash in Nevada on Wednesday has been identified by the Air Force as Maj. Stephen Del Bagno, who had more than 3,500 hours in the cockpit, ABC News reported.

It was Del Bagno's first season with the Thunderbirds, the Air Force's demonstration squadron that takes part in skilled flying performances around the country, according to the Thunderbirds website.

The Air Force said, per ABC News, that Del Bagno's F-16 Fighting Falcon crashed over the Nevada Test and Training Range about 10:30 a.m. during a routine aerial demonstration training flight.

"We are mourning the loss of Major Del Bagno," sBrig. Gen. Jeannie Leavitt, 57th Wing Commander, said on the Thunderbirds website. "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."

ABC News reported that an investigation is being conducted into the cause of the crash and that the Thunderbirds' participation at the March Air Reserve Base "The March Field Air & Space Expo" has been canceled.

It’s not known how this accident will impact the remainder of the 2018 Thunderbirds season.

The Thunderbirds were scheduled to appear at the Sun-N-Fun Fly-In & Expo in Lakeland, Florida on April 14-15, the Wings over Columbus event at Mississippi's Columbus Air Force Base on April 21-22 and at the Charleston Air Expo in South Carolina on April 28.

According to his biography, Del Bagno was a native of Valencia, California and a 2005 graduate of Utah Valley State University. Before joining the Air Force, he served as a civilian flight instructor, corporate pilot, skywriter, and a banner tow pilot, per his biography.

Before joining the Thunderbirds, Del Bagno served as an F-35A evaluator pilot and chief of standardization and evaluation with the 58th Fighter Squadron at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.

ABC News said the Air Force has been involved in a number of high-profile incidents involving the demonstration team.

Leavitt removed Lt. Col. Jason Heard as the Thunderbirds commander last November, pointing to a loss of confidence in his "leadership and risk management style," ABC News wrote. That came after a June 23 crash in Dayton, Ohio where one Thunderbirds F-16's flipped over on the runway.

The pilot was injured but his backseat crewmate was not in that incident, according to the Dayton Daily News.

Another Thunderbirds jet crashed outside of Colorado Springs, Colorado in 2016 following a flyover at the Air Force's commencement exercises, ABC News said. It was later determined that the F-16, which the pilot safely ejected from, crashed because of an equipment malfunction.

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TheWire
The Thunderbirds pilot who died in an F-16 crash in Nevada on Wednesday has been identified by the Air Force as Maj. Stephen Del Bagno, who had more than 3,500 hours in the cockpit.
thunderbirds, pilot, identified
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2018-37-06
Friday, 06 April 2018 11:37 AM
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