Air Force identifies Thunderbirds pilot who died

08 April, 2018, 02:17 | Author: Lora Ball
  • Fighting Falcon taking off from Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. Airman 1st Class Andrew Sarver  U.S. Air Force

"Dawn & I are mourning the loss of one of our Thunderbird pilots, who died Wednesday in an F-16 crash near Nellis Air Force Base", wrote Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein in a Facebook post. The Thunderbirds, who serve as ambassadors and recruiters for the Air Force, canceled an appearance at an upcoming exposition in southern California.

Maj. Stephen Del Bagno, Thunderbird 4/Slot Pilot, (pictured third from the left) marches to his F-16 Fighting Falcon alongside the five other Thunderbird pilots during a practice show at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Mar. 14, 2018.

Prior to his time with the Thunderbirds, he worked as a F-35A evaluator pilot with the 58th Fighter Squadron at Eglin Air Force Base.

In November, the Air Force removed Thunderbirds commander Lt. Col. Jason Heard, citing unnecessary risk taking.

More news: Donald Trump proposes military secure Mexico border until wall is built

In June 2017, a Thunderbird F-16 skidded off a soaked runway while landing after a familiarization flight for the Dayton Airshow in Ohio. Its pilot ejected and has been reported in stable condition. The team is investigating the fatal accident. The plane was destroyed in that incident as well, but the pilot escaped major injuries. But a spokesman for the unit denied his removal was linked to either crash. The Valencia, Calif., resident was in his first season with the team. Based on the bios on the Thunderbird's website, numerous pilots that visited Toledo in 2016 are still on the elite squad.

Also on Tuesday, a Marine Harrier jet crashed during takeoff in East Africa.

The crash was the third of a USA military aircraft since Tuesday. But the very experienced and highly professional pilots that take part in such formations work to make them as safe as possible, for themselves and the people on the ground.

The crash on Wednesday came less than 24 hours after a Marine helicopter crash killed all four crew members on board. The cause of the crash is under investigation.

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