Thunderbird pilot killed in crash ID'd

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. (KKTV) - A first-year Thunderbird pilot was killed Wednesday after a team training flight went tragically wrong.

Maj. Stephen Del Bagno crashed during a demonstration at Nellis Air Force Base just outside of Las Vegas. The team says it was a routine flight and are now looking into what could have caused the crash.

The accident came just a few days before the team was scheduled to perform at the March Field Air & Space Expo at March Air Reserve Base in California. In light of the tragedy, the performance has been canceled.

It is unknown how the loss of pilot will impact the remainder of the 2018 season, including the annual performance at the Air Force Academy graduation on May 23.

Four of the Thunderbirds' 12 team members are graduates of the AFA: Lt. Col. Kevin Walsh, Maj. Eric Gorney, Maj. Erik Gonsalves and Maj. Warren Smith. Walsh serves as the commander of the team.

The Air Force called the loss of the pilot a loss of a family member.


According to his bio on the Thunderbirds website, Del Bagno graduated from Utah Valley State University in 2005 and was commissioned as an officer two years later. He worked as a civilian flight instructor, corporate pilot, skywriter, and a banner tow pilot prior to joining the Air Force. He has logged more than 3,500 flight hours, with 1,400 of those as an Air Force pilot.

Del Bagno was originally from Valencia, California.