Air Force Identifies Thunderbird Pilot Killed in F-16 Crash in Nevada
By Erik Ortiz and the Associated Press
The Thunderbirds pilot killed in a fighter jet crash in central Nevada was an experienced aviator who had logged more than 3,500 flight hours, the Air Force said Thursday.
The Air Force identified the pilot as Maj. Stephen Del Bagno, who had joined the elite Thunderbirds team this season and was on a routine demonstration training flight when he was killed on Wednesday.
(The U.S. Air Force has confirmed the Thunderbird pilot who crashed Wednesday morning in Nevada has died. Courtesy of Newsy and YouTube. Posted on Apr 5, 2018)
He was alone in the F-16 Fighting Falcon when it departed from Nellis Air Force Base and crashed at the Nevada Test and Training Range at about 10:30 a.m. PT (1:30 p.m. ET).
U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron Slot Pilot Thunderbird 4, Maj. Stephen Del Bagno, was killed when his F-16 Fighting Falcon crashed over the Nevada Test and Training Range April 4, 2018. https://t.co/18AUe8PhMu
— Thunderbirds (@AFThunderbirds) April 5, 2018
“We are mourning the loss of Major Del Bagno,” Brig. Gen. Jeannie Leavitt, commander of the 57th Wing at Nellis Air Force Base, said in a statement.
“He was an integral part of the team, and our hearts are heavy with his loss.”
The Thunderbirds said in a statement that the team’s participation this weekend at an expo at the March Air Reserve Base in Southern California had been canceled.
The squad is known as “America’s Ambassadors in Blue.”
The highly trained pilots perform aerobatic formations and maneuvers during military ceremonies.
Del Bagno, of Valencia, California, was known as a slot pilot who flew the team’s No. 4 jet.
He graduated from Utah Valley State University in 2005, and after joining the Air Force served as an evaluator pilot and logged more than 3,500 total flight hours, according to his Thunderbirds biography.
An investigation has been opened into the cause of the accident, which was the third U.S. military aircraft crash this week.
Four crew members were killed when a Marine CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter crashed Tuesday in California during a training mission along the U.S.-Mexico border west of El Centro.
(On Wednesday the Marine Corps said that all four people aboard a military helicopter that crashed Tuesday afternoon in Southern California are presumed dead. Courtesy of Wochit News and YouTube. Posted on Apr 4, 2018)
The same day, a Marine Harrier jet crashed during takeoff from an airport in the East African nation of Djibouti. The pilot ejected and was medically evaluated.
Last September, a U.S. Air Force pilot, Lt. Col. Eric Schultz, died of injuries after a crash on the training range at Nellis, about 100 miles northwest of the base.
He was assigned to a military command that conducts research and weapon system tests. Officials did not disclose the type of aircraft Schultz had been piloting.
Marine Corps Identifies Four Killed in Super Stallion Crash
By Hope Hodge Seck, Military .com
Those killed in the crash include Capt. Samuel A. Schultz; 1st Lt. Samuel D. Philips; Gunnery Sgt. Richard D. Holley; and Lance Cpl. Taylor J. Conrad, Marine Corps officials said in a release.
All belonged to HMH-465, out of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California.
“The loss of our Marines weighs heavy on our hearts,” Maj. Gen. Mark Wise, commanding general of 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, said in a statement. “Our priority is to provide support for our families and HMH-465 during this critical time.”
According to information provided by the Marine Corps, the fallen troops had a range of military and combat experience.
Schultz, 28, of Huntington Valley, Pennsylvania, was a pilot who joined the Corps in May 2012, according to a release.
Philips, 27, of Pinehurst, North Carolina, was also a pilot who had previously served at New River. He joined the Marine Corps in August 2013.
Holley, 33, of Dayton Ohio, was a combat veteran.
A CH-53 crew chief, he joined the Marines in November 2003 and had twice deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
He had also deployed to Japan as part of the United Deployment Program, and completed another deployment with the 15th MEU, according to the release.
His awards include the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal (4th award), and Air Medal-Strike/Flight (9th award).
Conrad, 24, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, was also a CH-53 crew chief. He joined the Corps in May 2016.
It’s not clear what caused the helicopter to crash. The Associated Press reported the aircraft had been conducting routine desert landing training at the time of the mishap, about 15 miles west of El Centro.
The crash, the first of three major military aircraft mishaps in two days, two of them deadly, is still under investigation.
“The hardest part of being a Marine is the tragic loss of life of a fellow brother-in-arms,” Col. Craig Leflore, commanding officer of Marine Aircraft Group 16, said in a statement.
“… These ‘Warhorse’ Marines brought joy and laughter to so many around them.”
“They each served honorably, wore the uniform proudly and were a perfect example of what makes our Marine Corps great.”
Editor’s note: Our thoughts and prayers are with the families, friends and fellow Air Force and Marines of Maj. Del Bagno, Capt. Schultz, 1st Lt. Philips, Gunnery Sgt. Holley, and Lance Cpl. Conrad.
As the parent of a Marine, I cannot imagine the depth of your loss. You are and will continue to be in our hearts.