Air Force Concludes Investigation Into Fatal Crash Of Thunderbird #4, Releases Report

posted in: Jet Teams | 0

US Air Force Thunderbirds - F-16 Fighting Falcon

The US Air Force has released the crash investigation report for April’s fatal crash of Thunderbird #4, Maj. Stephen “Cajun” Del Bagno. Cajun was flying a practice routine with the team near Creech AFB in Nevada when his aircraft impacted the ground.

Very little information about the crash has been made public until now, and the remote location ensured there were few if any civilian witnesses. The report does not hold back, however, and describes in great detail how Del Bagno tragically succumbed to G-induced loss of consciousness, or G-LOC, during a high speed dive and failed to recover from it.

Specifically, the dive was part of the rejoin maneuver following the High Bomb Burst and four-ship crossover. Following the cross, the #4 pilot pulls up into a half loop, then flies down the show line inverted before pulling downward into a Split-S to drop into formation behind the lead aircraft. You can watch a video of the typical #4 rejoin sequence on our Youtube channel.

The report explains that on this particular occasion, Del Bagno flew at a maximum of -2.06 Gs while inverted, before immediately pulling to a peak of 8.56 Gs. It is believed that this quick transition from strong negative to intense positive Gs was too much for even the seasoned fighter pilot to handle. He lost consciousness for an estimated 5 seconds as the aircraft rocketed towards the ground. No attempt at ejection was registered by the aircraft systems and the aircraft impacted at nearly 60 degrees nose down and 90 degrees of bank with a descent rate of near 40,000 feet per minute.

Thunderbird #4 Major Stephen Del Bagno

Blue Angel #6, Capt. Jeff “Kooch” Kuss, was also killed while performing a Split-S about two years before Cajun’s accident. In that case, it was determined that he mistakenly initiated the maneuver lower than required. Following his crash, the Blue Angels removed the Split-S from their takeoff routine, although they do perform the maneuver later in the show.

As for the Thunderbirds, they resumed flying a few weeks after the crash, eventually bringing back former #4 pilot Major Nick “Khan” Krajicek to assume the slot position again. Based on observations at shows following the crash, they do not appear to have significantly changed the rejoin maneuver.

Here is the executive summary of the full 37 page report:

On 4 April 2018, the mishap pilot (MP), flying a F-16CM, tail number (T/N) 91-0413, assigned to the United States Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, the “Thunderbirds,” 57th Wing, Nellis Air Force Base (AFB), Nevada (NV), engaged in a routine aerial demonstration training flight at the Nevada Test and Training Range (NTTR) near Creech AFB, NV. During the training flight, at approximately 1029 local time, the mishap aircraft (MA) impacted the ground and fatally injured the MP, without an ejection attempt.

The mishap mission was planned and authorized as a practice of a Thunderbirds aerial demonstration in the south part of the NTTR. The mishap flight was a formation of six F-16CMs (Thunderbirds #1-6), the standard Thunderbirds aerial demonstration flight. Thunderbird #4 was the MA/MP. During the High Bomb Burst Rejoin, an aerial maneuver near the scheduled end of the aerial demonstration training flight, the MP flew the MA for approximately 22 seconds in inverted flight between 5,500 and 5,700 feet above ground level. During this time, the MP experienced a change in force due to acceleration measured in multiples of the acceleration of gravity felt at the earth’s surface (G), between -0.5 to -2.06 G’s. While experiencing -2.06 G’s in inverted flight, the MP initiated a descending half-loop maneuver (Split-S). After five seconds in the Split-S, the MP attained a maximum +8.56 G’s. The MP experienced G-induced loss of consciousness (G-LOC) and absolute incapacitation at the end of that five-second period.

For approximately the next five seconds, the MP remained in a state of absolute incapacitation and made no deliberate flight control inputs as the MA accelerated toward the ground. Approximately one second prior to ground impact, the MP began deliberate flight control inputs as he transitioned from absolute to relative incapacitation. The MA impacted the ground at 57 degrees nose low with 89 degrees of left bank and the MP was fatally injured on impact, without an ejection attempt.

The Accident Investigation Board (AIB) President found by a preponderance of evidence the cause of the mishap was the MP’s G-LOC during the Split-S portion of the High Bomb Burst Rejoin maneuver. Additionally, the AIB President found by a preponderance of evidence two factors substantially contributed to the mishap: (a) the MP’s diminished tolerance to +G’s induced by the physiology of the MP’s exposure to –G’s (“Push-Pull Effect”) and (b) an associated decrease in the effectiveness of the MP’s Anti-G straining maneuver under those conditions.

Blue Angels, Thunderbirds, And Snowbirds Combine For Incredible 21-Ship Mass Formation

posted in: Jet Teams, Popular Posts | 2

US Navy Blue Angels, USAF Thunderbirds, Canadian Forces Snowbirds Joint Formation Flight

In an historic moment, the US Navy Blue Angels, US Air Force Thunderbirds, and Canadian Forces Snowbirds joined together in a massive formation yesterday near Lake Erie. The three teams have crossed paths and flown jointly before, but this is believed to be the first and only time that all 21(!) display aircraft have shared the skies together.

US Navy Blue Angels, USAF Thunderbirds, Canadian Forces Snowbirds Joint Formation FlightUS Navy Blue Angels, USAF Thunderbirds, Canadian Forces Snowbirds Joint Formation Flight

US Navy Blue Angels, USAF Thunderbirds, Canadian Forces Snowbirds Joint Formation Flight

The flight was only possible because all three teams are performing relatively close to each other this Labor Day weekend. The Snowbirds and Thunderbirds are in Toronto, ON for the Canadian International Air Show while the Blue Angels are in Cleveland, OH for the Cleveland National Air Show.

US Navy Blue Angels, USAF Thunderbirds, Canadian Forces Snowbirds Joint Formation Flight

Photographer Glenn Watson captured the joint flight from the rear of the formation and all three teams shared these same photos on their social media pages. Hopefully more photos come out from another angle!

The Blue Angels’ Super Hornet Transition Is Still Years Away

posted in: Jet Teams, Popular Posts | 0

US Navy Blue Angels - F-18 Hornets

Fans of the US Navy Blue Angels expecting to see the team perform in Super Hornets will have to wait several more years at least. The Department of Defense announced today that Boeing has been awarded a contract for the documentation and kits to convert nine single-seat F/A-18Es and two dual-seat F/A-18Fs to Blue Angel configuration. The most notable part of the announcement is that this work is not expected to be completed before December of 2021, which would seemingly prevent the team from transitioning until 2022 or more likely 2023 at the earliest.

The team currently flies aging F/A-18B/C/D “Legacy” Hornets. The old and worn down jets create many maintenance issues for the squadron and it has become more and more common to see performances limited by the number of available aircraft, even though a spare travels with the team.

Several major incidents, including the crash of Blue Angel #6 Capt. Jeff Kuss in 2016, left the team with even fewer spares than usual. Even with the coming transition, the team has continued to receive additional Hornets as the Navy retires them from frontline units in favor of Super Hornets and F-35 Lightning IIs.

The Super Hornet transition has been public knowledge for a while now, a firm timeline has never been announced to the public; likely because even the Navy didn’t have firm plans. Certain details have emerged from interviews and previous contract announcements, but many fans have drawn false conclusions from these tidbits that the transition was/is imminent; one airshow vendor went as far as to create ‘Hornet Farewell Tour’ t-shirts during the 2017 season. Today’s announcement gives some clarity to the situation, and serves as a needed reality check on rumors and speculation.

Want to see the Blue Angels perform in person? Check out their 2018 airshow schedule and preliminary 2019 airshow schedule!

Here is the full text of the announcement:
The Boeing Co., St. Louis, Missouri, is being awarded $17,002,107 for firm-fixed-price delivery order N0001918F2654 against a previously issued basic ordering agreement (N00019-16-G-0001). This order is for the retrofit documentation and kits to convert nine F/A-18E and two F/A-18F aircraft into a Blue Angel configuration in accordance with engineering change proposal 6480. Work will be performed in St. Louis, Missouri, and is expected to be completed in December 2021. Fiscal 2018 aircraft procurement (Navy) funds in the amount of $17,002,107 will be obligated at time of award, none of which will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Maryland, is the contracting activity.

Blue Angels Announce New Officers and Demonstration Pilots for 2019

posted in: Jet Teams | 2

US Navy Blue Angels

The US Navy Blue Angels have announced new team members for the 2019 season.

The squadron selected three F/A-18 demonstration pilots, an events coordinator, flight surgeon, and supply officer to replace outgoing team members.

Each officer was recommended for selection by Chief of Naval Air Training Rear Adm. Gregory Harris, and ultimately approved by Commander, Naval Air Forces Vice Adm. DeWolfe Miller, for final selection to the 2019 Blue Angels team.

“It was an impressive slate of applicants this year,” said Cmdr. Eric Doyle, commanding officer and flight leader of the Blue Angels. “Every officer that applied represented the high caliber of personnel serving in our Navy and Marine Corps. It was a hard decision, but one that will ultimately lead to an amazing 2019 show season.”

The Blue Angels select “finalists” to interview at the team’s home base of Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola, Florida, during the week of the Pensacola Beach Air Show each year. The team makes selections at the conclusion of that week.

Blue Angels Announce New Team Members for 2019

The newly selected 2019 officers include:

F/A-18 DEMONSTRATION PILOTS:

Navy Lt. James Cox, 35, of Chesapeake, Virginia, is an F/A-18 Hornet pilot currently assigned to Strike Fighter Weapons School Atlantic. He graduated from James Madison University in 2005.

Navy Lt. James Haley, 31, of Canadian, Texas, is an F/A-18 Hornet pilot currently assigned to the “Gladiators” of VFA-106. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 2009.

Navy Lt. Cary Rickoff, 31, of Atlanta, Georgia, is an F/A-18 Hornet pilot currently assigned to the “Golden Eagles” of VT-22. He graduated from Duke University in 2009.

OTHER SELECTED OFFICERS:

The Blue Angels will also have a new Events Coordinator in 2019. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Adam Kerrick, 35, of Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania, is a Naval flight officer currently assigned to the “Star Warriors” of Electronic Attack Squadron 209. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 2005.

The Blue Angels Flight Surgeon for 2019 will be Navy Lt. Aaron Hicks, 33, of Federal Way, Washington. Hicks is a flight surgeon currently assigned to Carrier Air Wing 17. He graduated from Western Washington University in 2007.

Navy Lt. j.g. Kristin Toland, 31, of Sedalia, Missouri, is a supply officer currently assigned to Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron 1. She graduated from Columbia College in 2012. She will serve as the team’s supply officer for the 2019 season.

The Blue Angels will wrap up their 2018 season at their home base, NAS Pensacola on November 3rd. The newly selected team members will begin training with the team after that show, including winter training at NAS El Centro in early 2019.

USAF Thunderbirds Announce New Pilots and Officers for 2019

posted in: Airshows, Jet Teams | 3

USAF Thunderbirds

The USAF Thunderbirds have announced the new pilots and officers for the 2019 show season.

Lt. Col. John Caldwell, 28th Test and Evaluation Squadron Commander, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., will become Thunderbird No. 1, the squadron’s Commander/Leader. Caldwell will replace Lt. Col. Kevin Walsh.

Capt. Michael Brewer of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C., has been selected as Thunderbird No. 3, the team’s Right Wing Pilot.

Maj. Whit Collins, the current Lead Solo Pilot, will transition to the Slot Pilot position as Thunderbird No. 4 in 2019.

The Thunderbirds will also have another female pilot in 2019! Capt. Michelle Curran of the 355th Fighter Squadron, located at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, Texas, has been chosen as Thunderbird No. 6, the team’s Opposing Solo Pilot. This will be the first show season since 2014 with a female demonstration pilot on the team. Maj. Matt Kimmel, the current Opposing Solo Pilot, will transition to the Lead Solo position in 2019.

Capt. Michelle “Mace” Curran
Pic by Staff Sgt. Samantha Mathison

Maj. Jason Markzon, 35th Maintenance Operations Flight Commander and F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot assigned to the 13th Fighter Squadron, Misawa Air Base, Japan, will become Thunderbird No. 8, the team’s Advance Pilot and Narrator.

Lt. Col. (Dr.) Noel Colls, a flight surgeon and family practice resident assigned to the 60th Medical Operations Squadron Travis Air Force Base, Calif., will become Thunderbird No. 9, the team’s Flight Surgeon. As the team’s flight doctor, Lt. Col Colls will be responsible for the health and safety of the team and working with the pilots to ensure their flight readiness.

In a statement, the team’s current commander, Lt. Col Kevin Walsh said tThis year’s exceptional officer applicant pool reflects the incredible degree of talent, motivation and diversity that exists throughout our Air Force. It was a tough selection process, but ultimately these officers rose to the top. The Thunderbirds are proud to welcome these leaders aboard as they assume responsibility for showcasing the pride, precision and professionalism of more than 660,000 total force Airmen serving around the world.”

Officers on the Thunderbirds team serve two year tours of duty. By design, the position openings are staggered, allowing the squadron to maintain continuity of experience and leadership. In 2020, Thunderbird Nos. 2, 4, 6, 7, 10 and 12 will be replaced.

Congrats to all of the newly selected team members!

Fat Albert May Return to Airshows This Weekend at Pensacola Beach

posted in: Jet Teams | 0

Fat Albert Returns to Shows at Pensacola Beach Airshow
Those attending the Pensacola Beach airshow this weekend may get to see a sight that has been missing from shows for quite awhile- Fat Albert!

Earlier this year, we reported on the potential of Bert returning to shows this summer. In an interview with NewsRadio 1620, Major Mark Montgomery said the team has been working really hard to get Bert ready to fly and they are very close.

Fat Albert and the rest of the Marine Corps C-130T Hercules fleet has been grounded since the 2017 crash of a C-130 in Mississippi that killed all 16 service members onboard. Before that, Bert missed airshows while undergoing an extensive overhaul. Ironically, she returned to shows at the Pensacola Beach airshow in 2017.

Major Montgomery says the team was not waiting for the opportunity to return in front of the home crowd- but it just kinda worked out this way with the timing.

Bert’s appearance won’t be a full airshow routine as she’s not been cleared for that, just yet. Since the air frame has not flown in almost a year, the team feels it is best to slowly ease into it, instead of throwing the aircraft through a high G performance without fully evaluating it. However, it certainly will be nice to see Bert back in the skies regardless!

If you’re heading to the show and snap some pictures, share them with us on our forums!

Blue Angels Preparing Fat Albert For Return To Airshows This Summer

posted in: Jet Teams | 2

US Navy Blue Angels - C-130 Hercules Fat Albert

Could Fat Albert, the US Navy Blue Angels’ C-130 transport, return to airshows soon? There are several indications that say yes!

During an interview with NewsRadio1620 on May 30th, Commander Doyle (Blue Angel #1) said that the team is working on getting the current Fat Albert repaired and operational – potentially in time for the Pensacola Beach airshow, traditionally held in July. This year’s show will be held July 11-14th.

The road to get Bert flying again has been a long one. Fat Albert and the rest of the Marine Corps C-130T Hercules fleet has been grounded since the 2017 crash of a C-130 in Mississippi that killed all 16 service members onboard. Before that, Bert missed airshows while undergoing an extensive overhaul. Ironically, she returned to shows at the Pensacola Beach airshow in 2017.

We’ve also seen some pictures posted recently on social media that lead us to believe Bert will be back to flying status soon.

The potential return of Bert to flying status isn’t the only interesting thing going on with the famous blue and gold C-130. In March, we wrote about a government contract that solicited a Royal Air Force C-130J to replace Bert. Not many details have come out about the potential acquisition of the airframe to replace the current C-130T model.

AirshowStuff has reached out to the Blue Angels for comment on this.

Canadian Snowbirds Visit Blue Angels, Perform In Pensacola

posted in: Jet Teams | 1

Snowbirds and Blue Angels at Pensacola

The Canadian Forces Snowbirds made a visit to NAS Pensacola, home of the US Navy Blue Angels, ahead of their show in Anderson, SC.

The team arrived Sunday night, and joined the Blues in ‘buzzing the beach’, their tradition when returning home from a show. Because the Snowbirds were low on fuel, the teams did not join up but flew along the white sandy beaches of Pensacola at the same time.

Fans in the area also got a special treat during the week from the Canadian team as they practiced over the base. Traditionally, the Blue Angels practice during the week at Pensacola, with performances open to the public. To have two jet teams perform several times in one week was quite the show!

The teams took the opportunity to ride with each other and discuss best practices. Last year, the US Air Force Thunderbirds stopped by Pensacola for a similar visit.

The teams also took some time to sign autographs following their practice performance.

Snowbirds and Blue Angels Sign AutographsSnowbirds and Blue Angels at Pensacola

Snowbirds and Blue Angels Sign Autographs

Snowbirds and Blue Angels at Pensacola

USAF Thunderbirds Announce Return To Airshows Following Fatal Crash

posted in: Airshows, Jet Teams | 0

USAF Thunderbirds

The Thunderbirds are back! In a video posted by the team, Thunderbird #1 Lt. Col. Kevin Walsh announced that the team has been authorized to perform at the AirPower Over Hampton Roads airshow at Langley AFB this coming weekend. This will mark their first public performance following the fatal crash of Thunderbird #4, Major Stephen “Cajun” Del Bagno, in April.

Several airshow appearances were canceled in the wake of the crash, as the team observed a safety stand down from flying and then welcomed the previous Thunderbird #4 Major Nick “Khan” Krajicek back to the team to fly as the replacement slot pilot. Now that they have been approved to return to performing, they will get back to their previously announced 2018 airshow schedule.

Canadian Forces Snowbirds To Visit Blue Angels, Perform For Pensacola

posted in: Airshows, Jet Teams, Schedules | 1

Canadian Forces Snowbirds

The Canadian Forces Snowbirds will be making a rare and surprise appearance at NAS Pensacola next week! The team will be performing demonstrations over the base on May 15 and 16. The Blue Angels also have practice demonstrations those days, but their May 15th (and May 18th) performances are shown as not open to the public. The demonstrations can be viewed from the National Naval Aviation Museum on base.

According to the Pensacola News Journal, this is the plan for public viewing:
– The flight line will open at 1 p.m. Tuesday, May 15, for the Snowbirds performance at 2 p.m.
– Access to the base will begin at 8 a.m., and the flight line will open at 8:30 a.m. before the Blue Angels fly at 9 a.m. Wednesday, May 16. There will be an autograph session after the performance in the museum atrium. The flight line will reopen at 1 p.m. to allow for viewing of the Snowbirds demonstration that begins at 2 p.m.
– The flight line will open at 10:30 a.m. for the Blue Angels practice demonstration at 11:30 a.m. Thursday, May 17.

The Snowbirds are Canada’s national demonstration team. They perform with nine CT-114 Tutor trainer aircraft flying in close formation. You can see their 2018 airshow schedule here on our blog!

1 2 3 4 16