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.

USAF Thunderbirds Announce New #4 Pilot, Cancel Two More Appearances

posted in: Airshows, Jet Teams, Schedules | 0

US Air Force Thunderbirds

The US Air Force Thunderbirds announced today that Major Nick “Khan” Krajicek will return to the team as the new Thunderbird #4. He flew as #4 with the team in the 2016 and 2017 seasons, and rotated out of the squadron only a few months ago. 

Major Krajicek takes over for fallen Thunderbird #4 Major Stephen “Cajun” Del Bagno, who was killed in a crash during practice earlier this month. Del Bagno was just beginning his time with the team. Team members usually serve two year tours, with about half of the officers leaving each year. We expect that Krajicek will serve the rest of Del Bagno’s tour, performing in 2018 and 2019. 

Since the team is working to bring Krajicek up to speed, they have canceled their appearances at the Joint Base Charleston Air and Space Expo in South Carolina and the Fort Lauderdale airshow in Florida. Further cancellations may be announced once the team evaluates their training progress. 

Maj. Nick "Khan" Krajicek has been named as the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron's Thunderbird 4/Slot Pilot for the remainder of the 2018 show season.

Here is the full text of the announcement:

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. – Maj. Nick “Khan” Krajicek has been named as the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron’s Thunderbird 4/Slot Pilot for the remainder of the 2018 show season.

Krajicek is an experienced Thunderbird alumnus who performed as the Slot Pilot during the 2016 and 2017 show seasons.

“We’re grateful to have Khan coming back to the team,” said Lt. Col. Kevin Walsh, Thunderbird 1, Commander/Leader. “His experience and familiarity with our team’s mission and the demonstration profile make him the right choice as we safely make our way back on the road to recruit, retain and inspire once more.”

To facilitate Krajicek’s requalification training, the Thunderbirds’ participation at the Charleston Air Show and the Fort Lauderdale Air Show have been canceled.

The team’s participation in the Laughlin AFB Air Show and the Air Power over Hampton Roads air shows are being evaluated and are dependent on the team’s readiness to perform a safe 6-ship aerial demonstration.

Krajicek has logged more than 3,400 flight hours as a military pilot, with more than 650 hours of combat experience. He flew UH-60 Blackhawks in the Army, is an F-16C/D Fighting Falcon instructor pilot and commissioned into the Air Force in 2004.

Warbird Heritage Foundation Acquires P-51 Mustang “Moonbeam McSwine” To Honor Vlado Lenoch

posted in: Warbirds | 4

Vlado Lenoch and Moonbeam McSwine

Moonbeam McSwine is coming home!

The Warbird Heritage Foundation announced Wednesday that they’ve purchased the P-51 Mustang named “Moonbeam McSwine” from its most recent owner, Mr. Frederic Akary of France. The aircraft will reside under a new FAA registration number, N51VL, in honor of Vlado Lenoch.

Vlado and Moonbeam were synonymous; he flew the aircraft for over 20 years before he sold it to Akary in 2012 and began flying WHF’s P-51 Mustang “Baby Duck” at airshows instead. Vlado and passenger Bethany Root were flying in Baby Duck when they were killed in a crash last July. The aircraft was completely destroyed in the incident.

Moonbeam McSwine ReassemblyMoonbeam McSwine Reassembly

Rumors have been swirling for weeks now that Moonbeam was being brought home to the US to be flown as a tribute to Vlado, but until today nothing was confirmed publicly. The aircraft has arrived from overseas and is scheduled to be re-assembled at Tab-Air in East Troy, WI before joining the WHF fleet in Waukegan, IL. If all goes well, the aircraft should be up and flying in time for this summer’s airshow season!

Moonbeam McSwine Reassembly

Moonbeam’s history dates back to October of 1944, when it was manufactured in Inglewood, CA. In the 70s, 80s and 90s, Moonbeam raced in the Reno Air Races. Vlado flew it regularly in the United States Air Force Heritage Flight program (see the video below) before he sold it to Frederic Akary in 2012. Since then, it has been seen regularly at airshows across Europe.

We were fortunate to work with Vlado for many years, and continue to mourn his loss. This tribute is well deserved, and Moonbeam will certainly see many emotional reunions with Vlado’s friends as it returns to the airshow circuit. We look forward to bringing you plenty of photos and videos of this piece of history!

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.

USAF Thunderbirds Cancel Appearances After Fatal Accident

posted in: Airshows, Jet Teams | 1

Thunderbirds Cancel Shows

Following a crash which killed Thunderbird #4, the team has canceled some upcoming shows.

As of April 6th, the team’s performances at March AFB and Sun ‘n Fun have been canceled. The rest of the season schedule is still to be determined. Canceling shows while the team stands down to investigate the mishap and take time to grieve is standard protocol following crashes.

“Though we are deeply saddened by their loss of a valuable teammate, we totally understand and support the Thunderbirds’ decision. They have a requirement to take the necessary time to assess their current situation and plot a path forward, and we certainly respect their professionalism and diligence in ensuring their safe return to airshows,” said John Leenhouts, SUN ‘n FUN President/CEO.

Leenhouts also confirmed that this year’s daily airshows will include several activities to honor the service of Maj. Stephen Del Bagno, the fallen Thunderbird Number 4, and that a portion of the proceeds from this year’s event will be donated through the proper channels to support the Thunderbird family.

The Air Force’s Air Combat Command (ACC) and Sun ‘n Fun are working together to bring alternative USAF demonstrations to the event.

In a statement, Airshow Director Greg Gibson said “We appreciate ACC’s efforts on our behalf in such a short timeframe. They are working to make available a potential first-line combat aircraft to perform full aerial displays and/or engage in Heritage Flights with several of the numerous rare WWII fighters we have in attendance this year. We will make periodic announcements throughout the following days as these appearances are confirmed.”

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

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.

US Military Answers Internet Demands By Sending Dozens Of Aircraft To Royal International Air Tattoo

posted in: Airshows | 2

US Navy Blue Angels

The United States Air Force announced an unprecedented increase in airshow support today with the unveiling of the Royal International Air Tattoo Supporting Unit Coordination Command Squadron. The Royal International Air Tattoo, better known as RIAT, is a large military-themed airshow held every summer at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire, England. The new command will arrange demonstrations by all current US Air Force aircraft at the airshow.

The special unit came into being as an answer to international demand in the form of incessant comments left by RIAT supporters on any and every aviation-related internet post since mid-2017. Their sense of entitlement and lack of any sort of moderation impressed Air Force leaders. Unit Commander Colonel (Col.) Walter Haut explains:

“It is our mission to demonstrate US air power to the world, and we intend to do so by sending everything we have to a single airshow that isn’t even on American soil. Every time the Air Force wondered how to best showcase our technological might, we were immediately inundated with comments begging us to ‘come to RIAT.’ While initially shallow and whimsical of an idea to entertain, the frequency of these comments became a decidedly convincing argument that we simply couldn’t say no to any longer.”

RIAT Comments

“We’re excited to fly for the crowd at RIAT,” said Lieutenant William H. Blanchard, 2018 demonstration pilot for the newly re-activated F-15E Strike Eagle Demo Team East. “It means a lot to me to represent the US Air Force; I remember when I was a young child from Nebraska and my parents took me to see the Thunderbirds perform at an airshow in France. It inspired me to join the service and learn to fly – hopefully I can pass that on to a few of the younger Brits in the RIAT crowd to join the US Armed Forces.”

Other branches of the US military are also preparing numerous demonstrations of their own, pulling aircraft from US airshows and even from combat missions to support RIATSUCCS performances. The US Army has postponed a deployment of the 82nd Aviation Regiment’s newest AH-64 Apache attack helicopters to prepare them for the upcoming display.

US Army AH-64 ApacheUSAF F-15E Strike Eagle

The US Navy Blue Angels are also assuming RIAT-related roles, as they will be debuting their new UCAV aircraft at the event. These jets have been a topic of hot discussion since the leak of their transition in 2015, but this will not be the only new technology debuting to an overseas public before the national introduction.

RIATSUCCS Unit Patch

In a Lockheed Martin press conference, a representative was quoted as having said “We fully support and applaud the US military’s efforts to demonstrate abroad. In an act of solidarity, Lockheed will be sending two of their latest prototype aircraft for their official debut at the Royal International Air Tattoo. We will also be sending a fleet of brand new F-35 Lightning IIs to perform a mass-flypast with the Air Force counterparts to open the show.”

In response to this unprecedented move, the Royal Air Force announced plans to reciprocate the USAF’s gesture of friendship by sending a single C-17 transport to an airshow in the US. Unfortunately, the visit was immediately canceled.

Thunderbirds Are Go For 2018 Daytona 500 Flyover

posted in: Flyovers, Jet Teams | 2

US Air Force Thunderbirds

The US Air Force Thunderbirds are set to perform the flyover for NASCAR’s Daytona 500 on Florida this Sunday. This will be the team’s first public performance with their new leader, Lt. Col. Kevin Walsh.

The race will be broadcast on FOX at 2:30 PM Eastern time on Sunday, February 18th. Fans near Daytona Beach will likely see the jets flying around earlier in the weekend as well, as they practice (9-10am on Saturday) and take VIPs for media flights.

Flying over the race is somewhat of a tradition for the Thunderbirds, who use the trip as a warm up for their intense travel schedule during the regular airshow season. The team’s first full airshow performance is scheduled for March 24 and 25 in Melbourne, FL.

F-35 Lightning II Approved For Extra Flybys During 2018 Airshow Performances

posted in: Military | 0

USAF F-35 Lightning II

You’ll see a little bit more of the F-35 Lightning II this airshow season! We took a peek in the 2018 Air Combat Command support manual, and noticed that the F-35 Heritage Flight team is approved for a three-pass “mini-demo” at its performances this year!

NOTE: The F-35 profile will include three non-aerobatic solo passes, most likely before the first HF formation pass, for consistency between HF performances.

This is a bit of a let down for those who followed the rumors that the US Air Force’s F-35 would be upgraded to a full aerobatic demonstration after Lockheed Martin debuted an aerobatic profile at the Paris Airshow last year. However, it shows that the program is getting closer to a full-up demo.

In the mean time, we can look forward to an extra few passes from the jet at each airshow performance. There are no specifics on what the three flybys will be, but such mini-demos in the past have consisted of a photo pass, a high speed pass, and a slow speed/high alpha pass. The F-4 Phantoms flew this profile back when they were a part of the Heritage Flight, and both the A-10 Thunderbolt II and F-16 Fighting Falcon teams did the same prior to being reinstated to full aerobatic status. This year marks the A-10s first year back to an aerobatic profile.

The F-35 was added to the Heritage Flight program in 2016, and it has been limited to HF performances in the two seasons since. The aircraft typically takes off and immediately joins the formation, offering a solo flyby or two after the formation breaks apart. Most recently the F-35 has been performing a high speed pass and a pitch to land following the Heritage Flight. Along with the mini-demo, we could be looking at five solo flybys by the F-35.

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