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Thunderbirds resume training after fatal jet crash

A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft assigned to the 35th Fighter Squadron takes off on a simulated combat sortie during operational readiness exercise (ORE) Beverly Bulldog 14-01 at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, Nov. 19, 2013. (DoD photo by Senior Airman Armando A. Schwier-Morales, U.S. Air Force/Released)
April 19, 2018

The Air Force Thunderbirds say they are resuming practice today following a crash April 4 that killed one of the elite flight demonstration team’s pilots.

“These flights will focus on maintaining our team’s proficiency with the demanding maneuvers of our air demonstration. They will also strengthen our confidence following a trying two weeks for the squadron,” team commander Lt. Col. Kevin Walsh said.

The team, based out of Nellis Air Force Base near North Las Vegas, canceled several performances after the training crash but plans to resume its show schedule April 28 in Charleston, S.C., Walsh said. “But we stress that further cancellations are still possible,” he said.

The six-aircraft team’s slot pilot, Maj. Stephen “Cajun” Del Bagno, was killed when his F-16 fighter jet crashed during a routine training flight over the Nevada Test and Training Range northwest of Las Vegas, officials said.

The Air Force has not released any details about the crash or how it occurred.

Walsh said today the Thunderbirds are “supporting a robust investigation process to ensure the highest levels of safety in our operations.”

“This team and its leadership are taking a long, hard look at our processes and training to ensure we are performing our mission the right way and mitigating risk,” he said.

Walsh also thanked friends and fans for the “unbelievable amount of love and support” provided to Del Bagno’s family and the squadron. “You have helped us through some incredibly difficult days and aided us in our first steps on the long road to recovery,” he said.


© 2018 the Las Vegas Sun (Las Vegas, Nev.)

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.