An Air Force Thunderbird pilot was killed on Wednesday morning when his F-16 crashed during a routine aerial demonstration training flight near Nellis Air Force Base outside of Las Vegas. He has been identified as Major Stephen Del Bagno, 34, a 3,500-hour pilot in his first season with the Thunderbirds. According to a U.S. Air Force statement, the cause of the crash, which occurred at the Nevada Test and Training Range, is under investigation.
Due to the accident, the Thunderbirds’ performance at March Air Reserve Base’s “The March Field Air and Space Expo” has been canceled. The Air Force says it doesn’t yet know how the crash will impact the rest of the squadron’s show season. The last aerial accident involving the Thunderbirds occurred in June 2016 when one of its F-16s crashed after doing a flyover of the Air Force Academy graduation ceremony. The pilot was able to safely eject in that incident.
This is the second fatal crash of a U.S. military aircraft this week. On Tuesday, a Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter crashed near El Centro, California, during a routine training mission, with four crew members presumed dead.