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.

Aerobatic Pilot Killed During Night Airshow In Virginia

posted in: Airshows | 2

Jon Thocker - Redline Airshows

Aerobatic pilot Jon Thocker was killed in a crash while performing during the Friday night airshow at the 2018 Culpeper Air Fest in Culpeper, Virginia. Jon was the #2 pilot on the Redline Airshows team. The other Redline pilot, Ken Rieder, landed safely shortly after the incident. There is little information on what happened as the performance was flown in the dark.

Jon and Ken, both based in Cincinnati, Ohio, performed formation aerobatics across North America. Each pilot flew a Van’s RV-8 home-built aircraft. They were particularly known for their night time routine, which included sparklers and fireworks launched from the aircraft.

Jon was a former airline captain who retired to focus on building and flying experimental aircraft. The team recently finished building new airplanes with modifications designed to improve their night performances. We here at AirshowStuff were privileged to work with Jon several times in the last few years, and we are tremendously saddened by the loss of a great man.

One such project was this cockpit video from Jon’s aircraft several years ago. Enjoy the ride he was willing to share with us.

Vintage Airliner Crashes After Abbotsford Int’l Airshow

posted in: Airshows, Miscellaneous | 0

Historic Flight Foundation's DH.89 Dragon Rapide

A vintage aircraft crashed after the Abbotsford International Airshow on Saturday. The vintage biplane, a de Havilland DH.89 Dragon Rapide operated by the Historic Flight Foundation, was reportedly attempting to take off with a load of paying passengers Saturday evening when it experienced trouble and came down hard near the runway. At least five passengers were hurt and transported to hospitals, two via air ambulance. One person had to be freed from the wreckage.

The flight was not part of the airshow itself, and took place after the performances had concluded for the day. Photos from the scene show the aircraft sitting with its nose in the dirt.

The aircraft is a vintage airliner from the 1930s, constructed largely of wood and fabric as was common at the time. It is a very recent addition to the Historic Flight Foundation’s collection. The HFF is based at Paine Field north of Seattle and operates a number of vintage aircraft including a Douglas DC-3, P-51 Mustang, and Supermarine Spitfire.

As usual, we have more information about the airshow and the incident on our forums.

Historic Flight Foundation's DH.89 Dragon Rapide

Update: Here is the full press release from the airshow, which states much of what we already know and adds the the airshow will continue as planned Sunday.

At 5:30 pm, shortly after the Airshow ended, Abbotsford International Airshow officials were notified of a crash on the Abbotsford International Airport runway. A 1930’s era biplane (deHaviland Dragon Rapide) crashed shortly after takeoff.

The occupants of the aircraft include the pilot and four adult passengers. All five on board have been taken to hospital by BC Ambulance Service by both air and road; three with non-life threatening injuries, one serious and one critical.

As the Abbotsford International Airshow has just completed for the day, many emergency resources were already in place and able to respond immediately.

The crash investigation is in the preliminary stages, and will be conducted by the Transportation Safety Board. Further enquiries regarding the crash are to be forwarded to the Transportation Safety Board.

At this time the Airport is closed and will be expected to reopen this evening around 9:00 pm. Further enquiries regarding Abbotsford Airport Operations are to be forwarded to the Airport Manager.

The Airshow will proceed as scheduled on Sunday.

Douglas C-47 “Bluebonnet Belle” Crashes On Takeoff

posted in: Warbirds | 7

Douglas C-47 Skytrain "Bluebonnet Belle"

Shortly after 9:00 A.M. on Saturday July 21, the Commemorative Air Force’s Douglas C-47 Skytrain “Bluebonnet Belle” reportedly crashed during a takeoff at Burnet Municipal Airport in Burnet, Texas.

Video of the accident shows that the aircraft began to yaw during the takeoff roll. Shortly after lifting off, the left wing dropped and struck the ground. The aircraft then came down and rolled across the grass where shortly before coming to a rest, the aircraft caught fire.

**WARNING: Video contains strong language**
Facebook Video of crash

Of the 13 people inside, all were reportedly able to evacuate the aircraft. Seven are reported with minor injuries with one passenger needing to be airlifted to a nearby hospital. Fire fighters were able to extinguish the fire. Much of the aircraft has been burned away.

“Bluebonnet Belle” was an active part of the Highland Lakes Squadron CAF museum. Named after the city of Burnet, the Bluebonnet Capital of Texas, its history started as part of the Allied Lend-Lease Program serving the Royal Air Force during the Second World War and was most recently involved with the relief efforts of Hurricane Harvey last year.

Pilot Killed, Two Others Injured When Rare de Havilland Venom Crashes On Takeoff In Wisconsin

posted in: Warbirds | 11

Marty Tibbitts Killed In DH-112 Venom Crash - Sheboygan WI

Pilot Marty Tibbitts was killed on Friday when his de Havilland DH-112 Venom aircraft crashed shortly after takeoff. Marty was on a formation training flight when the accident occurred. The aircraft crashed into a barn near the airport, killing dozens of livestock and injuring two people on the ground.

The Venom, along with a de Havilland Vampire and rare Gloster Meteor, was to be a featured performer at EAA AirVenture 2018 in Oshkosh, WI. All three are owned by the World Heritage Air Museum, based out of Detroit, Michigan. The formation training flight was in preparation for the show.

The Venom is a Cold War-era British jet which served with the Royal Air Force as a single-seat bomber and a two-seat night fighter. According to the World Heritage Air Museum, there are only 4-6 flying Venoms in the world, including the one they had. The aircraft was the only one of its type flying in the US.

Sadly, we filmed Marty flying the Venom just one week before the crash. We present this video in his memory. May he rest in peace.

Dan Buchanan Killed In Hang Glider Accident At Mountain Home AFB Airshow

posted in: Airshows | 3

An accident at an airshow in Idaho has killed hang glider pilot Dan Buchanan.

Buchanan was flying at the Gunfighter Skies Air and Space Celebration at Mountain Home Air Force Base.

At this time, the cause of the crash is unknown.

The remainder of Saturday’s show, including the performance by the USAF Thunderbirds, was canceled. Sunday’s airshow will be held, as a tribute to Dan.

In 1981, Buchanan was injured in a different hang glider incident. That accident left him paralyzed from the waist down. Despite this handicap, Dan returned to flying within six months and flew his first airshow in 1989.

Buchanan was a popular performer on the airshow circuit, with his daytime and nighttime glider routines. Over the years his awards and accolades have included the Art Scholl Award for Showmanship, the Bill Barber Award for Showmanship and the ICAS Special Achievement Award.

Follow along in our forums for further updates.

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.

U.S. Pilot Elgin Wells Killed While Practicing for Chinese Airshow

posted in: Airshows | 30

Elgin Wells, known for his “Starjammer” routine was killed when his aerobatic aircraft crashed during a practice flight ahead of the Zhengzhou airshow in Zhengzhou, China.

The crash occurred around 6:14pm local time on Wednesday the 26th of April. An investigation into the cause of the crash is underway.

The Zhengzhou Air Show is scheduled to kick off on Friday, April 27th and last until May 1st. Several airshow performers from the United States are scheduled to perform. In March, Well’s aircraft was shipped to China in preparation for the show.

Wells was a native of the Atlanta, GA area. From the age of 14, he began playing instruments and singing. His band, the “The Elgin Wells Group” won several awards, including the New South Music Award for Best Jazz Band. He has produced 12 albums, mainly in the jazz and blues genre.

He began flying in 1968 at the age of 18. His father, a fighter squadron commander who served in the Pacific during WW2 was a career pilot with delta Airlines. Elgin’s dad wanted him to join the airlines, but all Wells wanted to do was fly aerobatics. In the early 2000s, Elgin was flying Unlimited low level aerobatic competitions and helped lead a team of airshow pilots known as “Airshow Unlimited.”

Starjammer

In 1996, Wells began building the StarJammer, which has 250+ lights and a 4,000 watt amplifier and onboard loudspeakers as a sound system. As the World’s only aircraft of it’s kind, the StarJammer combines aerobatics and music together in one unique performance for both daytime and nighttime airshows.

Photo compliments of Elgin Wells Website

Rob Holland Back In The Air After Crash Landing; Will Resume 2018 Airshow Schedule

posted in: Aerobatics | 1

Rob Holland

Airshow pilot and four time consecutive world freestyle champion Rob Holland is ready to take to the skies at airshows across the states again after being reacquainted with an old friend.

Holland has leased his previous MX2 from the current owner, Marty Flournoy. Holland sold the aircraft to Flourney, himself an aerobatic pilot, after acquiring the custom-built MXS-RH that was heavily damaged in a forced landing a few weeks ago.

Rob says this is his way of “moving forward” with the 2018 show season following the incident. The aircraft has already been painted and wrapped in sponsor logos.

You can view Rob Holland’s 2018 show schedule on our forums.

Here’s a video of Rob flying his old MX2 at the 2010 Rockford Airfest.

USAF Thunderbirds Cancel Appearance At Wings Over Columbus 2018

posted in: Airshows, Jet Teams, Schedules | 1

USAF Thunderbirds F-16 Fighting Falcon

The USAF Thunderbirds have canceled their planned appearance at the 2018 Wings Over Columbus airshow at Columbus AFB in Mississippi. The move was announced in a video update by Thunderbird #1 following the death of Thunderbird #4, Maj. Stephen Del Bagno, in a crash during practice last week. The team had previously announced they were skipping their performances at the March ARB airshow this past weekend as well as Sun ‘n Fun in Lakeland, FL next weekend.

It is important to note that while the Thunderbird performances have been canceled, the airshows themselves will be held as originally scheduled. The Air Force’s Air Combat Command has been working to add single-ship demonstrations to affected shows; Sun ‘n Fun recently announced that the F-16 Fighting Falcon demonstration team (Viper Demo) will perform there to fill in for the Thunderbirds.

We have updated our 2018 USAF Thunderbirds schedule to reflect the confirmed cancellations, but we expect more appearances to be canceled as part of a safety stand down after the accident. Stay tuned to AirshowStuff for future updates.

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