U.S. Air Force mourns Thunderbird pilot killed in crash

Li Jiayao

LOS ANGELES, April 5 (Xinhua) -- The United States Air Force (USAF) Thursday mourned Thunderbirds pilot Maj. Stephen Del Bagno, who was killed in a crash Wednesday in the state of Nevada.

"The Thunderbirds are more than the Air Force's demonstration team -- to us, they're family. As we mourn the loss of our Airman, our hearts are with the pilot's family, friends and Wingmen," the Air Force tweeted Thursday morning.

According to the USAF, Del Bagno, a first-year Thunderbird pilot, crashed with his F-16 Falcon during a "routine aerial demonstration training flight" at Nellis Air Force Base just outside of Las Vegas, 376 kilometers east of Los Angeles at approximately 10:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Nellis Air Force Base is Thunderbirds' headquarters. The team is investigating the fatal accident.

The accident came just a few days before the team was scheduled to perform at the March Field Air & Space Expo at March Air Reserve Base in California, which has been canceled in light of the tragedy.

Del Bagno grew in California before graduated from Utah Valley State University in 2005 and was commissioned as an officer two years later. He has logged more than 3,500 flight hours, with 1,400 of those as an Air Force pilot.

Thunderbirds, the air demonstration squadron of the USAF, have 12 members. The squadron was created in 1953 and assigned to the 57th Wing.



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