Thunderbirds pilot killed when F-16 crashes during Nevada training flight
06 April 2018, 10:54 | Colleen Roy
EXPRESSLas Vegas plane crash A plane has crashed at Nellis Air Force Base
Stephen Del Bagno was killed Wednesday, April 4, 2018, during a routine flight demonstration in Nevada. The exact cause of that crash remains under investigation.
The Thunderbirds have withdrawn their participation at this weekend's Air & Space Expo at March Air Force Base in Riverside County in a response to the crash. The Air Force says it doesn't yet know how the crash will impact the rest of the squadron's show season. A malfunction in the leader's plane led him and the three others to crash in the diamond formation straight into the desert.
A year later, in June 2017, a two-seat F-16D overrun the runway at Ohio's Dayton International Airport, overturning and injuring both crewmembers. Its pilot ejected and has been reported in stable condition. John "Rain" Waters piloted an F-16 Fighting Falcon from Shaw Air Force Base in SC to Titusville.
Del Bagno shook hands with Mike Pence during a visit to the base in January, and the Vice President issued a statement saying he was "deeply saddened" to hear the news. They moved to Nellis in 1956. The team has flown the F-16 since 1982. Gen. Jeannie Leavitt, 57th Wing commander, in the release.
The pilot expressed excitement about joining the Thunderbirds team to WEAR-TV back in the fall.
The team had gone through a somewhat sudden change in leadership somewhat recently. "And I wish them the best in this hard time", he said. At the end of the last show season, Thunderbird #1, the team's commanding officer, was relieved of his position. This is the third Thunderbirds mishap in two years.
On Sept. 5, Lt. Col. Eric Schultz died after his aircraft crashed on the NTTR. He was assigned to a military command that conducts research and weapon system tests.
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This crash marks the fourth such incident involving USA military aircraft in the span of 48 hours, and the third airframe loss. A Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter crashed during exercises along the U.S. -Mexico border in California that day, killing four crew members.
The crash occurred at approximately 2:35 p.m., CST, near El Centro.
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