Thunderbird #4 Killed In F-16 Crash Near Creech AFB

posted in: Jet Teams | 0

Thunderbird #4 Major Stephen

The US Air Force has released the name of the Thunderbird pilot killed in yesterday’s F-16 crash in Nevada. Thunderbird #4, Major Stephen Del Bagno, was killed in the crash that occurred while the team was practicing their airshow routine near Creech AFB. He was in his first of two seasons with the team, which is based at nearby Nellis AFB in Las Vegas. He had over 3,500 flight hours in both civilian and Air Force aircraft.

Here is Maj. Del Bagno’s full bio from the Thunderbirds’ website:
Maj. Stephen Del Bagno is the Slot Pilot for the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, flying the No. 4 jet. He is a 2005 graduate of Utah Valley State University, and commissioned from Officer Training School, Maxwell AFB, Ala. in 2007. Before joining the Air Force, Del Bagno was a civilian flight instructor, corporate pilot, skywriter, and a banner tow pilot. He enjoys snowboarding, water sports and spending time with family and friends. Prior to joining the Thunderbirds, Del Bagno served as an F-35A Evaluator Pilot and Chief of Standardization and Evaluation, 58th Fighter Squadron, Eglin AFB, Fla. He has logged more than 3,500 total flight hours in over 30 different aircraft, with 1,400 hours as an Air Force pilot. Del Bagno is in his first season with the team and hails from Valencia, Calif.

“We are mourning the loss of Major Del Bagno,” said Brig. Gen. Jeannie Leavitt, 57th Wing Commander. “He was an integral part of our team and our hearts are heavy with his loss. We ask everyone to provide his family and friends the space to heal during this difficult time.”

Our thoughts are with Maj. Del Bagno’s family and teammates.

This is the first fatal crash for the team since 1982, when the four pilots in the diamond formation were killed after failing to recover from a loop. The famous tragedy became known as the “diamond crash”, and occurred in the same training area as today’s crash.

There have been more recent nonfatal crashes; in 2016 Thunderbird #6 crashed just short of the runway at Peterson AFB in Colorado after the team performed a flyover for the US Air Force Academy graduation ceremony. The pilot ejected safely, and the crash was eventually blamed on a faulty throttle component. The same day, Capt. Jeff Kuss of the US Navy Blue Angels demonstration team was killed in a crash while practicing for an airshow in Smyrna, TN.

In 2017, Thunderbird #8 skidded off a soaked runway while landing at the Dayton Airshow in Ohio. The flight was not part of the airshow; it was a “familiarization flight” with a member of the team’s maintenance crew in the back seat. Both pilot and passenger survived, though the pilot was injured.

Please visit our forums for further discussion on the crash and what it means for the airshow season.

Thunderbird F-16 Crashes In Nevada; Pilot Killed

posted in: Jet Teams | 7

US Air Force Thunderbirds - F-16 Fighting Falcon

UPDATE: The name of the pilot has been released.

ORIGINAL POST: An F-16 Fighting Falcon jet belonging to the US Air Force Thunderbirds crashed Wednesday inside the military’s Nevada Test and Training Range outside of Nellis AFB. The pilot of the jet was killed, however, the name has not been released yet pending next of kin notification. We expect to hear the name on Thursday. An investigation is being conducted into the cause of the mishap.

The team was performing an airshow practice routine near Creech AFB in Indian Springs, NV when the crash occurred. The Thunderbirds are based at nearby Nellis AFB, which sits on the outskirts of Las Vegas, NV. They opened their 2018 airshow season just a week and a half ago after canceling a couple of appearances to allow extra training time for their new commanding officer.

This is the first fatal crash for the team since 1982, when the four pilots in the diamond formation were killed after failing to recover from a loop. The famous incident became known as the “diamond crash”, and occurred in the same training area as today’s crash.

There have been more recent nonfatal crashes; in 2016 Thunderbird #6 crashed just short of the runway at Peterson AFB in Colorado after the team performed a flyover for the US Air Force Academy graduation ceremony. The pilot ejected safely, and the crash was eventually blamed on a faulty throttle component. The same day, Capt. Jeff Kuss of the US Navy Blue Angels demonstration team was killed in a crash while practicing for an airshow in Smyrna, TN.

In 2017, Thunderbird #8 skidded off a soaked runway while landing at the Dayton Airshow in Ohio. The flight was not part of the airshow; it was a “familiarization flight” with a member of the team’s maintenance crew in the back seat. Both pilot and passenger survived, though the pilot was injured.

There are few details available at this point, but we will update you once the pilot’s name is released. In the mean time, be sure to check our forums for further discussion on the crash and what it means for the airshow season. The team’s participation at the March Air Reserve Base “The March Field Air & Space Expo” has been cancelled.

Has The 2018 Aviation Nation Airshow At Nellis AFB Been Cancelled?

posted in: Airshows, Schedules | 11

USAF Thunderbird F-16 Fighting Falcon - Aviation Nation Airshow

UPDATE: The show has been confirmed as canceled in 2018.

ORIGINAL POST: Rumors are swirling that the 2018 Aviation Nation airshow at Nellis AFB has been canceled after it was removed from both the ICAS and USAF Thunderbird 2018 airshow schedules. The show was previously scheduled for November 10-11 on both.

This is a stunning development for one of the best military airshows in the country. Nellis is the home base of the Thunderbirds, and serves as the home town end to their season each year. The show previously canceled in 2015, but that was due to runway construction. This may be the beginning of a move to hold the show every two years instead of annually. Another interesting note is that the Thunderbirds’ 2019 schedule now has Nellis scheduled one week later than originally planned.

We are working to confirm this news, and will provide any further information we get. In the mean time, join the discussion and add your own info on our forums!

USAF Thunderbirds Announce New Commanding Officer For 2018 Season

posted in: Jet Teams | 0

US Air Force Thunderbirds

The US Air Force Thunderbirds have a new commanding officer! The commander of Air Combat Command, Gen. Mike Holmes, has selected Lt. Col. Kevin “Lowen” Walsh to lead the team in 2018. Lt. Col. Walsh was already serving as the interim CO of the famed demonstration squadron following the unexpected dismissal of the previous team leader, Lt. Col. Jason Heard late last month.

USAF Thunderbirds - Lt. Col. Kevin Walsh

Walsh served as Thunderbird #7, the team’s Operations Officer, during the 2016 and 2017 seasons and was due to leave the team this winter as his tour concluded. He will now take over the second year of Lt. Col. Heard’s planned two year tour before a new “Boss” is selected in 2019.

We welcome Lt. Col. Walsh (back) to the team and look forward to seeing him fly in 2018!

Here is the full text of the Air Force press release:

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. – The commander of Air Combat Command, Gen. Mike Holmes, has officially selected the officer who will lead the United States Air Force Thunderbirds for the 2018 demonstration season.

Lt. Col. Kevin Walsh will become Thunderbird No. 1, the squadron’s commander and lead pilot. As the twofold duty title implies, his responsibilities will include commanding a force of more than 130 enlisted personnel and 11 commissioned officers assigned to the Thunderbirds, along with leading all demonstration flights.

Walsh, a 2002 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., just completed his second season with the team as Thunderbird No. 7, the squadron’s Operations Officer.

“Kevin’s extensive flying experience and rapport within the Thunderbirds makes him a perfect fit to command the team,” said Brig. Gen. Jeannie Leavitt, 57th Wing Commander. “I have full faith he will lead the team through a successful 2018 show season.”

Walsh is a graduate of the USAF Weapons School and has logged over 2,600 hours of flight time with more than 500 hours of combat pilot experience.

2018 will mark the Thunderbirds’ 65th season as the Air Force’s premier jet demonstration team, entrusted with the vital mission to recruit, retain and inspire across the nation while representing the outstanding men and women serving in the United States Air Force around the world.

Thunderbird #1 Relieved Of Command After Loss Of Confidence

posted in: Jet Teams | 2

USAF Thunderbirds in Formation

Thunderbird #1, Lt. Col. Jason Heard, was relieved of command earlier this month. The stunning news was announced today by The US Air Force’s Air Combat Command. Heard had served as the commander and flight leader of the famous USAF Thunderbirds demonstration team since taking over the role around one year ago. He lead the team’s performances at each of their 2017 appearances across North America and Europe and was due for one more season with the team.

The reasoning behind the move is quite eye-opening. According to the press release, Brig. Gen. Jeannie Leavitt “Lost confidence in his leadership and risk management style”. Leavitt is the 57th wing commander and the one who relieved Heard. “This was an incredibly difficult decision to make, but one that is ultimately in the best interests of the Thunderbird team. I am personally grateful for Jason’s dedication to the 2017 season,” Leavitt said.

Thunderbird #1 Lt. Col. Jason Heard

Lt. Col. Kevin Walsh, the Thunderbird’s 2016-2017 Operations Officer, has temporarily assumed responsibility of the team until a new commander is selected.

The timing of the move is interesting. The decision was made effective November 20th, just a week after the team concluded their 2017 airshow season with the home town Aviation Nation airshow at Nellis AFB, but it was not announced until today.

Representatives from the team are currently preparing for the annual International Council of Airshows convention next week, where the team’s schedule release is always a main event. It remains to be seen how the change in leadership might alter the winter training schedule and planned 2018 performances.

Stay tuned to AirshowStuff as we cover not only the fallout from this story, but the planned release of the jet team schedules next week!

Here is the full text of the Air Force’s press release on the matter:

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. – Brig. Gen. Jeannie Leavitt, 57th Wing Commander, relieved Lt. Col. Jason Heard of command of the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron upon the completion of the 2017 season effective Nov. 20, 2017.

While Heard led the team through a highly successful show season, Leavitt lost confidence in his leadership and risk management style.

Leavitt determined that new leadership was necessary to ensure the highest levels of pride, precision and professionalism within the team.

“This was an incredibly difficult decision to make, but one that is ultimately in the best interests of the Thunderbird team. I am personally grateful for Jason’s dedication to the 2017 season,” Leavitt said.

Lt. Col. Kevin Walsh, the Thunderbird’s 2016-2017 Operations Officer, has temporarily assumed responsibility of the team until a new commander is selected.

The Thunderbirds are preparing for the 2018 season, training their new pilots, and look forward to inspiring crowds around the country.

Thunderbirds Return To Flying, Airshows After Dayton Landing Incident

posted in: Jet Teams | 0

Cleveland National Airshow - USAF Thunderbirds

The US Air Force Thunderbirds announced today that they are returning to flying operations this week, and it sounds like they have every intention of performing as scheduled this weekend in Traverse City, MI. The remaining aircraft departed Dayton today to return to their home base of Nellis AFB, and they will fly a practice show there tomorrow. After Traverse City, the team has a weekend off followed by a trip to the UK where they will perform at the Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford.

The team canceled their scheduled performances at the 2017 Vectren Dayton Airshow this past weekend after one of their two-seat F-16Ds flipped over onto its back next to the runway on Friday. The pilot, Thunderbird #8 Capt. Erik Gonsalves and passenger Technical Sgt. Kenneth Cordova were trapped in the overturned cockpit for more than an hour as emergency crews carefully attempted to extract them without triggering the powerful ejection seats.

The jet was returning from a familiarization flight nearby when the weather deteriorated. Reportedly, a gust of wind caught the aircraft after it was on the ground and flipped it onto its back in the muddy grass. The incident is still under investigation.

Once freed, both of the crew were taken to a nearby hospital in good condition. Cordova was released but Gonsalves remains in the hospital with reported cuts to his legs. He is expected to fully recover.

We are glad to hear that both of the Thunderbird team members are safe, and that the team will not observe a lengthy stand down. They must feel that the incident was a freak occurrence and that it is safe to continue performing.

EXCLUSIVE: Helmet Cam Footage Of Two F-4 Phantoms Over The Grand Canyon

posted in: Featured Videos, Military | 0

Phantom’s-Eye View!

It’s no secret that the F-4 Phantom is a favorite of airshow fans everywhere, but with 2016 being the final year for the venerable Phantom in the US military inventory, the opportunity to see one flying is now even more rare. Once it returns from maintenance, the Collings Foundation F-4 will be the only one flying in the US. Throughout the year, we here at AirshowStuff have covered the “Phantom Phinale” tour with photos, videos, and cockpit cameras. We are now excited to bring you this exclusive helmet-cam video of the last departure of the QF-4E Phantoms from Nellis Air Force Base after Aviation Nation 2016!

You get a pilot’s-eye view as Lt. Col. Ron “Elvis” King and Lt. Col. (Ret.) Jim “WAM” Harkins depart Nellis AFB back to Holloman AFB after their final airshow performance prior to the retirement ceremony in December. After a formation takeoff, you’ll see the two Phantoms meet up with a photoship T-33 for some brief formation flying before heading over the Grand Canyon. Once over the Grand Canyon, you’ll see the two Phantom pilots make the most of their flight with some playful flying over some of the most spectacular landscapes nature has to offer. You won’t see this footage anywhere else, so strap in to the cockpit, adjust your helmet, put the player on full screen, and enjoy this HD video to the fullest!

Check back later for some additional cockpit footage taken during the airshow!

-Justin Miner

SEE ALSO: F-4 Phantom II Demo and Heritage Flight with F-15 and P-51 – Dayton Airshow 2007

QF-4E Phantom IIF-4 Phantom Heritage Flight

The Blue Angels And Thunderbirds Will Wrap Up Their 2016 Airshow Seasons This Weekend

posted in: Airshows, Jet Teams | 0

US Navy Blue Angels

The US Navy Blue Angels and US Air Force Thunderbirds will both wrap up their 2016 airshow seasons this coming weekend with their respective homecoming shows. The Blue Angels will perform at NAS Pensacola in Florida while the Thunderbirds will wow their hometown crowd at Nellis AFB in Las Vegas. These shows mark the end of the major airshow season in the US; following the closing performances, the teams will begin preparing for their respective winter training periods and the 2017 season.

USAF Thunderbirds

While we have already posted preliminary schedules for both the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds, check back with us in early December when updated 2017 and preliminary 2018 schedules are released at the ICAS convention!

Have you been able to see the teams during the 2016 season? We’d love to see some fan photos of them posted to the AirshowStuff Facebook page!

2016 Dates And Locations Announced For Red Bull Air Racing

posted in: Aerobatics, Airshows, Miscellaneous | 1

Red Bull Air Race 2009 - Windsor, ON

The 2016 dates for the Red Bull Air Race World Championship were announced today, and the 8-stop world tour will conclude with two stops in the US. The 7th stop will take place at the famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, IN before the series wraps up by returning to Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Las Vegas, NV. The stop in Indianapolis already has Midwest airshow fans abuzz as it is the first stop in the region since 2010. The full 2016 schedule is below.

    March 11-12 – Abu Dhabi, UAE
    April 23-24 – Spielberg, Austria
    TBD – Japan
    July 16-17 – Budapest, Hungary
    August 13-14 – Ascot, Great Britain
    September 3-4 – Lausitzring, Germany
    October 1-2 – Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
    October 15/16 – Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

Each race will be broadcast in the US on Fox Sports 1 on a schedule to be announced later.

Each air race is arranged as a time trial event. Carefully selected pilots from around the world fly small aerobatic planes such as Edge 540s and Extra 300s through gates made of inflatable pylons. These pylons are specially designed to not damage the aircraft in the frequent event of contact. There are multiple rounds per event and the pilot with the fastest time through the course is the winner.

The flexible setup allows the course to take on a new layout at each race location, often in a small footprint. While many of the earlier events took place over open water, race tracks have seemingly become a favored location since they do not have many tall obstacles, the track can be used as a temporary airport, and the crowd can sit in pre-existing grand stands.

The series was created in 2003 and soon branched out from Europe to the US and around the world. Previous US events have been held in Monument Valley, Reno, San Francisco, San Diego, Detroit (along with adjacent Windsor, Ontario), and New York City. The races were not held in 2011, 2012, or 2013. In 2014 and 2015, the series concluded with stops in Texas and Las Vegas. Stops outside the US have included Australia, Brazil, China, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Sweden, the UAE, and more.

Air Race 1 World Cup To End At Reno

posted in: Airshows, Miscellaneous | 0

Formula 1 Air Race

Air racing fans will want to make sure they’re in Reno in late September as the city plays host to the Air Race 1 World Cup! Reno, NV will play host to the final event of the 2015 Air Race 1 World Cup, a thrilling race of 8 aircraft in a 10 lap battle at 450kph where the first plane to cross the finish line wins! This will be the first international title in Formula 1 Air Racing’s 70 year history.

Mike Major, CEO of RARA, said: “The Reno Air Races has long been a cornerstone of the sport of air racing, but we are not resting on our laurels and many new innovations are planned. So the timing is perfect for us to harness the growth of air racing globally through this partnership with the exciting new international series, the Air Race 1 World Cup, to introduce true air racing to many new audiences.”

Pilots competing in the 2015 Air Race 1 World Cup will be announced in March. Other venues on the schedule include Monastir, Tunisia in early June and Lleida, Spain in late June. The races at Reno are scheduled for Sunday, September 20th.

The Air Race 1 World Cup is sanctioned as the top international title in the sport of formula one air racing by the three official associations based in USA, UK and France. Each event will be covered extensively by global media and the television program will be available in almost 100 countries. The series hopes to expand to more cities in 2016.

Photo from Air Race 1 Website