Did You Notice The Burning Piano In Captain Marvel? Here’s The Special Meaning Behind It – And Its Connection To A Real Life Hero

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Thunderbird #4 - Major Stephen "Cajun" Del Bagno

Millions of people will be heading to theaters to see Marvel’s new Captain Marvel movie over the next few weeks, but most won’t understand one special image in the movie. Near the beginning of the film, a quick flash of a burning piano is shown on the screen. Marvel movies are known for their detailed backstories and easter eggs, but what’s the deal with the piano, and why are we writing about it on an airshow website?

The piano is actually a tribute to Thunderbird #4, Maj. Stephen “Cajun” Del Bagno. Del Bagno was one of two Thunderbird pilots who consulted on the movie. Fellow Thunderbird pilot Maj. Matt Kimmel was also involved.

Tragically, Del Bagno was killed in a crash in April of 2018, just a week after concluding his work on the film. The team was practicing their airshow routine at Creech AFB near Las Vegas when his jet impacted the ground after failing to recover from a high speed dive.

Thunderbird #4 Major Stephen Del Bagno

So why the burning piano? It’s actually a traditional send off for fighter pilots who have “flown west” that, according to fighter pilot lore, dates back to World War II or even earlier. There are variations on the story, but perhaps the most common tale is that a particular RAF pilot was especially good at playing the piano in the squadron clubhouse. When he was killed in battle, his squadron mates realized they would never hear him play again and burned the piano as tribute. It’s not only an appropriate shot to include, it fits perfectly with the lead character’s background; Brie Larson plays Carol Danvers, an Air Force fighter pilot who would know the tradition well.

There are other tributes to Cajun in the film as well. He is mentioned several times in the credit roll, and the filmmakers reportedly snuck his callsign into the background of several scenes. He even has a brief cameo, playing a game of pool with Danvers in a quick flashback. It’s a wonderful gesture to honor him.

Cajun’s legacy lives on through the Cajun’s Aviation Dream charity, which seeks to help “stellar young Americans chase their own dreams to fly and pursue their passion for aviation” through scholarships and other efforts. You can visit their website to donate to the cause, apply for one of the scholarships, or view photos of Cajun and the many tributes to him, including the real life piano burning.

Major Stephen "Cajun" Del Bagno Piano Burning
Photos courtesy of Cajun’s Aviation Dream

For their part, the USAF and Thunderbirds have tried hard to capitalize on the movie’s portrayal of an Air Force fighter pilot. The Air Force organized a major PR campaign around would-be F-16 demonstration pilot Capt. Zoe “SiS” Kotnick, calling her the “real life Captain Marvel” until she was suddenly dismissed from the team. The Thunderbirds visited Los Angeles last week to perform a flyover of the movie’s premiere and other area landmarks, including the home of Cajun’s parents.

Did you catch any of the hidden tributes to Cajun in the movie? Let us know in the comments below or in our forums!

Disney World Visitors Treated To Blue Angel Flyovers

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US Navy Blue Angels - Walt Disney World Flyover
Photo: Walt Disney World

Visitors to Walt Disney World got a special treat today when the US Navy Blue Angels performed a pair of flyovers above the Magic Kingdom park. The six-ship delta formation flew down Main Street USA before performing a Delta Breakout over the iconic Cinderella Castle. Photos of the flyby were all over social media following the flight; the appearance clearly thrilled the crowds below.

The team performed a similar flyover in 2015 while transiting from NAS Pensacola to Melbourne, FL for an airshow. This year they were on their way to the massive Sun ‘n Fun airshow in nearby Lakeland, FL. We live-streamed their practice over on the AirshowStuff Facebook page after their arrival there.

Blue Angels Bring Magic of Flight to Disney’s Magic Kingdom

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US Navy Blue Angels Fly Over Disney World

Visitors to Disney World’s Magic Kingdom were treated to a special appearance by the US Navy Blue Angels today. The team stopped by the park while transiting between NAS Pensacola and Melbourne, FL, where they will be performing this weekend. The signature six-ship delta formation flew over the park and down Main Street USA before performing the “Delta Breakout” maneuver right over the famous Cinderella Castle for a truly magnificent photo op. By all accounts, the crowd gathered in the park loved it!

Check it out for yourself in this video from Disney: