UPDATE: Thunderbirds to resume shows after pilot's death

UPDATE MAY 15: The Thunderbirds will resume performances on May 19-20 for the show called Air Power over Hampton Roads at Joint Base Langley-Eustis. 

According to the statement from the Thunderbirds, Maj. Stephen Del Bagno's death was the first fatal incident in 36 years. 

UPDATE APRIL 25: The Thunderbirds canceled more shows to allow time for training of a new pilot taking over a spot formerly occupied by Maj. Stephen Del Bagno.

Maj. Nick “Khan” Krajicek has been named as the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron’s Thunderbird 4/Slot Pilot for the remainder of the 2018 show season.

Krajicek is an experienced Thunderbird alumnus who performed as the Slot Pilot during the 2016 and 2017 show seasons. 

To facilitate Krajicek’s requalification training, the Thunderbirds’ participation at the Charleston Air Show and the Fort Lauderdale Air Show have been canceled.

The team’s participation in the Laughlin AFB Air Show and the Air Power over Hampton Roads air shows are being evaluated and are dependent on the team’s readiness to perform a safe 6-ship aerial demonstration.

Krajicek has logged more than 3,400 flight hours as a military pilot, with more than 650 hours of combat experience. He flew UH-60 Blackhawks in the Army, is an F-16C/D Fighting Falcon instructor pilot and commissioned into the Air Force in 2004.

UPDATE APRIL 18: The Thunderbirds resumed practice flights over the Nevada Test and Training Range on Wednesday.

"While our hearts are still heavy with the loss of our wingman Cajun, we know he'd want us back in the air and preparing to recruit, retain and inspire once more," according to a statement from Lt. Col. Kevin Walsh, Thunderbirds commander/leader.

Read the remainder of the statement below. 

"These flights will focus on maintaining our team's proficiency with the demanding maneuvers of our air demonstration. They will also strengthen our confidence following a trying two weeks for the squadron.

Concurrent with these flights, we are supporting a robust investigation process to ensure the highest levels of safety in our operations. This team and its leadership are taking a long, hard look at our processes and training to ensure we are performing our mission the right way and mitigating risk.

With that in mind, I'm sure many of you are wondering when the team will resume air show performances. For now, we ask for your patience as we resume training operations and support the safety investigation. We are not currently cancelling any shows past Columbus Air Force Base, but we stress that further cancellations are still possible. When we do resume our show season, we'll do so with the full faith and confidence of senior Air Force leadership that we are safe and ready to perform.

Finally, I'd like to again thank all our friends and fans for the unbelievable amount of love and support you've provided to Cajun's family and this Squadron. You have helped us through some incredibly difficult days and aided us in our first steps on the long road to recovery. Hard days lie ahead, but we press on a little stronger thanks to you. Please stay tuned for further updates as we make our way back into the air. Thank you."

UPDATE APRIL 13: A memorial service was held at Nellis Air Force Base for Maj. Stephen Del Bagno on Wednesday. 

UPDATE APRIL 9: The Thunderbirds announced that two more shows have been canceled following Maj. Stephen Del Bagno's death last week.

The show in Lakeland, Florida, called the "Sun-N-Fun Fly-In & Expo" has been canceled for April 14-15, along with the Columbus (Mississippi) Air Force Base show "Wings Over Columbus," which had been set for April 21-22.

The Thunderbirds noted that more shows could be canceled. 

UPDATE APRIL 6: It's not just the military community, family and friends and Las Vegas that are mourning Maj. Stephen Del Bagno after his F-16 crashed during routine training. He will be missed by Hollywood too.

Bagno, whose call sign was "Cajun," was a consultant for the upcoming movie "Captain Marvel," which is set to be released next year.

Marvel Studios sent the following tweet after the Thunderbirds pilot was identified.

Actress Brie Larson, who plays an Air Force pilot who becomes a hero in the movie, posted this on Twitter.

UPDATE APRIL 5: The Thunderbirds pilot killed in Wednesday's F-16 crash has been identified as Maj. Stephen Del Bagno. 

Del Bagno was flying his Fighting Falcon during a routine aerial demonstration training flight. He was Thunderbird No. 4. According to Del Bagno's LinkedIn profile, he has been a Thunderbird since November 2017.

Del Bagno was 34 and lived in Valencia, California. 

"We are mourning the loss of Major Del Bagno," said Brig. Gen. Jeannie Leavitt, 57th Wing Commander in a statement. "He was an integral part of our team and ourselves hearts are heavy with his loss. We ask everyone to provide his family and friends the space to heal during this difficult time."

ABC Military expert retired Col. Steve Ganyard says the tricks the Thunderbirds do are dangerous, but a tragedy like this is also mystery because of how experienced the pilots are and how much training they go through.

Del Bagno himself had logged more than 3,500 flight hours in 30 different planes.  A native of California, Del Bagno also worked in the Air Force stationed in Alabama and Florida.

Ganyard says the Air Force could also be looking into video to try and find a cause of the crash since demonstrations are usually taped.  He says they'll look into both the possibilities of pilot error or mechanical issues.

Plans were being made Thursday for a memorial for Del Bagno.

Gov. Brian Sandoval announced Thursday afternoon that flags would be flown at half-staff April 6 to honor Del Bagno. 

UPDATE 9 P.M. APRIL 4: A pilot  for the United States Air Force Thunderbirds died after his F-16 Fighting Falcon crashed during a routine training flight over the Nevada Test and Training Range.

Nellis Air Force Base says an investigation is underway to figure out the cause of the crash. The pilot's identity has not been released.

This is the 2nd incident involving a Thunderbird plane in a year. A Thunderbird flipped over after landing during a “familiarization flight” for an air show in Ohio in June 2017. The pilot and his passenger were hospitalized with injuries after the incident. 

A Thunderbird also crashed after a flyover over a graduation ceremony at Air Force Academy in 2016. The pilot survived that crash.  

The Thunderbirds were scheduled to perform this weekend at March Air Reserve Base near Riverside, California. That performance has been canceled.

The crash on Wednesday was the third U.S. military crash this week.

Four crew members were killed Tuesday after a Marine helicopter crashed during a training mission in California.

A Marine Harrier jet also crashed during takeoff on Tuesday in East Africa. The pilot was able to eject before that crash.

The Thunderbirds formed in 1953 as the Air Demonstration Unite at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona. They moved to Nellis in 1956. 

ORIGINAL: A F-16 assigned to Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas crashed on Wednesday morning.

The plane crashed around 10:30 a.m. during routine training on the Nevada Test and Training Range, which is located north of the Las Vegas valley.

NAFB says that emergency responders are on the scene. The condition of pilot is unknown at this time.

The range covers more than 3 million acres. NAFB did not give any other information about where the plane crashed or why.


Plane forced to abort during takeoff in January 2018
Lt. Col. Eric Schultz killed September 2017 after plane went down on test and training range Two A-10C Thunderbolt IIs crash in September 2017
Plane owned by civilian contractor crashes near Nellis Air Force Base

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