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.

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 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.

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.

Red Arrows Engineer Killed In RAF Valley Hawk Crash

posted in: Jet Teams | 0

Royal Air Force Red Arrows

A Royal Air Force engineer was killed Tuesday when a Red Arrow jet crashed at RAF Valley in North Wales. Corporal Jonathan Bayliss was riding in the Hawk T1 aircraft when it crashed around 1:30pm local time.

The pilot survived and is currently receiving medical treatment for his injuries. The Hawk training aircraft was flying from RAF Valley to RAF Scrampton, where the famous aerobatic display team is based, at the time of the incident.

Bayliss was n Aircraft Technician with the aerobatic team. Born in Dartford, Kent, he joined the Royal Air Force in 2001 and was selected as a member of the Red Arrows team in 2016. In 2017, he was leader of the Red Arrows’ dye team, who help replace the jet’s famous red, white and blue smoke systems after landing. For 2018, as a member of the Circus team, Bayliss was a part of a small group of highly-trained engineers who travel with the aircraft and provide technical support to the Red Arrows when the aircraft operate away from their home base.

Corporal Jonathan Bayliss

Sergeant Will Allen, leader of the Red Arrow’s group of traveling support engineers, known as the “Circus” said: “Jon had a big a presence on the Squadron and with his wide beaming smile, and dry humour, could lighten up any dull moment or lift spirits when needed. Both inside and outside of work, he was a generous, kind and caring man who could also always be relied upon.”

Eyewitnesses reported seeing only the pilot eject from the aircraft as it neared the ground. Photos show black smoke rising from the airfield. An air ambulance helicopter was dispatched to the scene and airport fire services responded. Some reports indicate that a bird strike may have led to the crash, but the accident is under investigation.

AirshowStuff extends our condolences to the family, friends and teammates of Corporal Bayliss.

RCAF Announces 2018 CF-18 Hornet Demo Team Pilot And Theme

posted in: Military | 0
RCAF CF-18 Hornet Demo Pilot Captain Stefan "Porcelain" Porteous
Photo courtesy of the RCAF

The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) has announced the CF-18 Hornet demonstration pilot for the 2018 airshow season, as well as the theme for the 2018 team.

Captain Stefan “Porcelain” Porteous will be the demonstration pilot for the 2018 season. He is from Comox, British Columbia and earned his private pilot license in 2005 after first learning to fly gliders with the Royal Air Cadets. He joined the RCAF in 2008 and qualified to fly the CF-18 Hornet in 2014. Capt. Porteous is currently part of 433 Tactical Fighter Squadron at 3 Wing in Bagotville, Quebec.

The theme he will be flying for in 2018 is the 60th anniversary of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). NORAD is the military command charged with defending North American airspace. It was jointly established in 1958 by Canada and the United States and continues to maintain a 24/7 watch to protect both countries.

Assuming tradition holds, the aircraft assigned to the demonstration team will be given a special paint scheme (designed by Jim Belliveau) celebrating this theme. The 2017 demo jet, flown by Capt. Matthew “Glib” Kutryk, featured a stunning red and white paint scheme celebrating Canada 150, the 150th anniversary of the country’s confederation.

Previous demo paint schemes have ranged from special tails to designs covering the entire aircraft. During a live video interview, Capt. Porteous reported that the 2018 scheme will be a full aircraft design with midnight blue as the primary color. More details on the 2018 paint scheme will be released at a later date!

Take a look at the 2018 CF-18 Hornet demonstration schedule to see if the team will be performing near you!

Quotes from the press release:

“I am extremely honoured to have been selected as Canada’s 2018 National CF-18 Demonstration Team pilot. I am very much looking forward to commemorating 60 years of NORAD at air shows throughout the summer while having the opportunity to be part of a highly dedicated team that will work together to put on thrilling performances aimed at demonstrating the professionalism and skill of the men and women of the RCAF. I look forward to meeting as many people as possible over the course of the coming demonstration season.”

– Capt. Porteous, 2018 CF-18 demonstration pilot

“As the Commander of the Canadian NORAD Region, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to showcase the important NORAD mission and our important bi-national partnership through the 2018 National CF-18 Demonstration program. The men and women of NORAD work diligently to keep watch over our countries and to protect the air sovereignty of North America. Twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, no matter what – we have the watch.”

– Major-General Christian Drouin, the commander of 1 Canadian Air Division/Canadian NORAD Region

Slot Pilot Gene McNeely Retires From Aeroshell Aerobatic Team

posted in: Miscellaneous | 0
Gene McNeely - Aeroshell Aerobatic Team
Photo Courtesy of AeroShell Aerobatic Team. www.naat.net

Gene McNeely, the slot pilot for AeroShell Aerobatic Team, performed his final air show on November 5th in Stuart, Florida. He had spent the last 24 years flying the slot position for AeroShell.

Gene got the flying bug as a kid. After serving in the United States Navy, he used his G.I. Bill to finish his ratings. He fell in love with the T-6 while watching fellow AeroShell pilot Steve Gustafson’s father, Merle, flying one at an airshow. Gene joined the AeroShell team, then known as the North American Aerobatic Team, for the 1994-1995 season, replacing the retiring Ben Cunningham. Back then, the show was a three-ship routine with Alan Henley and Steve Gustafson as the other pilots. The team became a four-ship when Alan’s brother Mark joined the team, and a few years later they became the AeroShell Aerobatic Team, now going down in history as one of the longest running civilian teams in the world.

Over his career, Gene has logged more than 26,000 hours of flight time doing just about anything you can imagine in aviation. He operated his own agricultural business for over twenty years. He also operated an air cargo service utilizing DC-3s, Beech 18s and MU-2s. Outside of air shows, Gene is active in the Reno Air Races where he races a T-6, and loves building homebuilt aircraft. His fondest memories, however, are the time he spent on the team, with their first night show ever at Oshkosh standing out in his memory.

From all of us at AirshowStuff.com, congratulations on your retirement Gene!

Enjoy Nearly Six Hours Of EAA AirVenture Oshkosh Action With This Mega-Compilation Video!

That’s right, our annual EAA AirVenture Oshkosh mega-compilation video is up, and this year it is nearly six hours long! This video combines all of our ground footage from the show into one long masterpiece, sure to please any aviation fan. The videos are in roughly sequential order, so you start out with the chaos of mass aircraft arrivals on the Sunday before the show. As the week progresses you’ll see more arrivals, portions of the airshow, and then mass departures as everyone reluctantly bids Wittman Regional Airport farewell and heads home.

Airshow performances include the US Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon demonstration team, the USAF Heritage Flight, the US Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet demonstration, the arrival of the Canadian Forces Snowbirds, a Martin Mars water drop, the final Oshkosh appearance of USAF F-4 Phantom IIs, flybys from a USAF U-2 Dragon Lady, F-15 Eagle, and A-10 Warthogs, massive warbird formations and exciting flybys, the Tora! Tora! Tora! Pearl Harbor reenactment, the arrival and departure of a massive C-5M Super Galaxy, the Oshkosh seaplane base on Lake Winnebago, a maximum performance departure of the Cathay-Pacific 747-8 freighter “Hong Kong Trader”, and much more!

Find a comfortable chair and settle in to watch the video above! You can also view each video individually, as well as special on-board videos from the show, using our EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2016 video playlist. Enjoy!

Airshow Pilots Prepare For 2016 Season

posted in: Aerobatics, Airshows | 1

The long winter stretch with little or no airshow activity is almost over! Soon the roar of jet engines and the sound of spinning props will ripple through the air, letting airshow fans know that the flying season is upon us!

A few airshows have already occurred this year – AIR FIESTA 2016 occurred in Brownsville, TX on Feb 13th and 14th and a few airshows were held in California in January. The Singapore Airshow was also held in February!

Kyle Franklin

But while the off season may be slightly depressing for airshow fans, it gives performers time to regroup and inspect their aircraft. During the winter, airshow pilots typically take them apart and look over every inch. Kyle Franklin did just that this year and posted this picture on his Facebook page. During the inspections, Kyle found a cracked exhaust flange on his high performance biplane known as “Dracula”. Kyle says the problem is fairly common with his exhaust and they have made adjustments so that it doesn’t crack as much.

Kyle Franklin recently posted a video on his Facebook page showing him starting up Dracula for the first time in 2016.

Many other pilots spend the winter season training for the upcoming season. Michael Goulian and Kevin Coleman will be participating in the Red Bull Air Race this year. Kevin will be competing in the Challenger Cup.

The Blue Angels and Thunderbirds have also been preparing for the season. The Blues “crested” many members of the 2016 team today at El Centro. The team has been flying practice flights at El Centro to get ready for the season. The Thunderbirds will fly their Creech AFB Appreciation Show on Tuesday, March 8th to thank the airmen of Creech for their support during the season. The Thunderbirds use Creech as a training airport.

The off season also gives us and many other aviation photographers a chance to catch up on photo editing, clean the camera, and just maybe get some new equipment! We’re ready for the season to start and excited to bring you coverage of this year’s airshow season. Stay here through the season for the latest in airshow news, photos, and videos!

In 2014, we did a RideAlong! onboard cockpit video with Kyle at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh. Check out the video below!