Flyover tribute planned for pilot Major Stephen Del Bagno


A memorial for fallen Thunderbirds pilot Major Stephen Del Bagno, who died last week when his F-16 Fighting Falcon crashed over the Nevada Test and Training Range, is planned to be big, loud and proud at Saugus High School Sunday afternoon.

The special tribute is expected to feature a flyover by pilots during the tribute, however, it was not certain on Thursday if it is expected to involve the Thunderbirds.

A procession carrying an urn containing Bagno’s cremated remains is expected to leave Eternal Valley Memorial Park & Mortuary on Sierra Highway on Apr. 15, at 4 p.m. and arrive at Saugus High School for a tribute scheduled for 4:44 p.m.

The memorial itself is expected to take place in the school’s quad area, featuring a 21-gun salute, the playing of Taps and a low flyover, according to Dave Caldwell, spokesman for the William S. Hart Union High School District.

More than 500 people are expected to attend the memorial, he said.

Bagno, who lived in Valencia, is a graduate of Saugus High School.

On the day of the fatal crash, he was training with the Thunderbirds – officially called the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron when his F-16 Fighting Falcon crashed during a routine aerial demonstration training flight.

It was Del  Bagno’s first season with the team.

The Thunderbirds squadron is an Air Combat Command made up of eight pilots – including six demonstration pilots – four support officers, four civilians and more than 100 enlisted personnel performing in almost 30 job specialties

Before joining the Airforce, Del Bagno was a civilian flight instructor, corporate pilot, skywriter, and a banner tow pilot. He enjoys snowboarding, water sports and spending time with family and friends.

Prior to joining the Thunderbirds, Del Bagno served as an F-35A Evaluator Pilot and Chief of Standardization and Evaluation, 58th Fighter Squadron, Eglin AFB, Fla.

He has logged more than 3,500 total flight hours in over 30 different aircraft, with 1,400 hours as an Air Force pilot.

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