Valencia Thunderbirds pilot dies in Nevada crash during training exercise

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Valencia pilot Major Stephen Del Bagno, who flies for the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron – commonly known as The Thunderbirds – was killed Wednesday when his F-16 Fighting Falcon crashed over the Nevada Test and Training Range during a routine aerial demonstration training flight.

“We are mourning the loss of Major Del Bagno,” said Brig. Gen. Jeannie Leavitt, 57th Wing Commander said in a statement posted on the Thunderbirds website.

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

A Thunderbirds air demonstration is a mix of formation flying and solo routines.

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

“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,” Leavitt said.

An investigation is being conducted into the cause of the mishap.

The team’s participation at the March Air Reserve Base “The March Field Air & Space Expo” has been cancelled.

It is unknown how this accident will impact the remainder of the 2018 Thunderbirds Season.

Del Bagno is a 2005 graduate of Utah Valley State University, and commissioned from Officer Training School, Maxwell AFB, Ala. in 2007.

Before joining the Air Force, 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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