Maj. Stephen Del Bagno, 34, died early Wednesday after his F-16 fighter jet crashed at the Nevada Test and Training range
The Thunderbirds pilot who was killed in a training flight crash at the Nevada Test and Training range this week has been identified.
Maj. Stephen Del Bagno, 34, died early Wednesday after his F-16 Fighting Falcon, otherwise known as Thunderbird 4, crashed just outside Las Vegas, the U.S. Air Force confirmed.
The late pilot was a resident of Valencia, California. 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, according to the Air Force Times.
Del Bagno was also a ‘civilian flight instructor, corporate pilot, skywriter and a banner tow pilot’ beforehand.
The pilot expressed excitement about joining the Thunderbirds team to WEAR-TV back in the fall.
‘The best thing is going to the airshows and getting to talk to the kids. You can’t help but get reblued a little bit and just find what it was that drove you to fly or to join the Air Force,’ Del Bagno told the news station.
Brig. Gen. Jeannie Leavitt, commander of the 57th Wing at Nellis Air Force Base, shared a condolence message after the tragedy in a news release.
Del Bagno, who was a California resident, is pictured above in this photo by the United States Air Force
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. He is pictured left
‘We are mourning the loss of Maj. Del Bagno,’ Leavitt said in the statement, where she described the pilot as an ‘integral part’ of the Thunderbirds team.
‘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 crash is currently under investigation. The Thunderbirds will no longer participate in an air show this weekend at the March Air Reserve Base.
The U.S. Air Force says Thunderbirds member Del Bango (shown) of the flight demonstration team, was killed in the crash of his F-16 fighter jet in central Nevada
Del Bagno is pictured above shaking hands with Vice President Mike Pence in this undated photo
Memorial service plans for Del Bagno are currently being arranged with a date to follow.
The aircraft crash was the third in the United States this week.
The Mirimar air station in San Diego said Wednesday four marines were killed after a helicopter crashed while they were practicing desert landings in Southern California.
The group took off from a ground-combat center in the city of Twentynine Palms for the routine training mission on Tuesday, when the helicopter went down.
The massive CH-53E Super Stallion crashed about 100 miles to the south in a remote desert area just outside of El Centro, near the U.S.-Mexico border. There were no survivors.
Also on Tuesday, a Marine Harrier jet crashed during takeoff in East Africa. The pilot was killed.
In this June 18, 2010 file photo the U. S. Air Force Thunderbirds practice a maneuver during a rehearsal in preparation for a weekend air show, in Oklahoma City