US Air Force Thunderbirds pilot killed in Nevada crash graduated from UVU

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE – The US Air Force Thunderbirds pilot killed when his F-16 jet crashed at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada graduated from Utah Valley University in 2005.

US Air Force Thunderbirds Maj. Stephen Del Bagno was a Slot Pilot for the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, flying a No. 4 jet. Courtesy: US Air Force Thunderbirds

According to the US Air Force Thunderbirds, Maj. Stephen Del Bagno was a Slot Pilot for the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, flying a No. 4 jet.

He is originally from Valencia, California.

In a statement, the US Air Force said the jet from the service’s precision demonstration team crashed at 10:30 a.m. during routine training Wednesday on the Nevada Test and Training Range.

“We are mourning the loss of Major Del Bagno,” Brig. Gen. Jeannie Leavitt said, 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.”

The cause of the crash is under investigation.

The statement said the team’s show this coming weekend at March Air Reserve Base in Southern California was canceled and the effect on the remainder of the Thunderbirds’ shows scheduled for 2018 had yet to be determined.

The team had performed once so far in 2018, in Melbourne, Florida, in late March, as well as doing a flyover of the Daytona 500 in Florida in February.

The crash of the F-16 was the third for a Thunderbird jet in the past two years.

In June 2017, an F-16D used by the team ran off the runway and overturned at Dayton International Airport in Ohio while preparing for an air show. Two crewmembers were injured.

In June 2016, a Thunderbirds F-16 crashed south of Colorado Springs, Colorado, after it and other Thunderbirds flew over a graduation ceremony at the US Air Force Academy. The pilot ejected in that incident.

Wednesday’s Thunderbird crash was the fourth incident involving US military aircraft in approximately 24 hours. The other incidents are:

  • A US Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier II jet crashed Tuesday during takeoff from Djibouti-Ambouli International Airport. The pilot was able to eject and is being treated.
  • A US Marine Corps CH-53 crashed Tuesday in the vicinity of Naval Air Facility El Centro in California, killing four crew members.
  • A United States Marines Corps CH-53 helicopter was damaged late Tuesday while landing in the East African country of Djibouti, in the vicinity of Arta Beach.