Tag Archives: U.S. Air Force

Air Force Identifies Thunderbird F-16 Pilot Killed in Crash at Nevada Test and Training Range.

USAF Major Stephen Del Bagno, Thunderbird #4, Was Experienced Pilot, First Year Thunderbird.

Update: a previous version of the story only mentioned the flyover at the Daytona 500 whereas the Thunderbirds have performed a display at Melbourne air show 2018, Florida.

The U.S. Air Force has identified the member of the Thunderbirds flight demonstration team who died in a training accident near Nellis AFB, Nevada yesterday morning while training for the upcoming airshow demonstration season.

USAF Major Stephen Del Bagno, listed as being from Valencia, California by ABC7 News in California, was previously the F-35A Lightning II Chief of Standardization and Evaluation at the 58th Fighter Squadron, Eglin AFB, Florida. He became a Thunderbird demonstration pilot in 2017 for the 2018 airshow season.

Major Del Bagno is reported to have only had the opportunity to participate in one Thunderbird public flyover at the Daytona 500 NASCAR race in Florida on February 18, 2018 and to the display at Melbourne Air and Space Show, Florida, on March 24-25 prior to his fatal accident. As an experienced tactical aircraft pilot with more than 3,500 total flight hours including 1,400 hours in U.S. Air Force aircraft, Major Del Bagno began flying and rehearsing with the Thunderbirds last year and was experiencd as the Number 4 “Slot” pilot in the Thunderbird diamond formation. He had flown over 30 types of aircraft, civilian and military, during his career.

The official USAF Thunderbird page for Major Del Bagno summarized his impressive career as an exceptional aviator:

“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 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.”

Major Del Bagno had replaced former Thunderbird #4 slot pilot Major Nick Krajicek, who moved within the Air Force to another assignment. Maj. Del Bagno, callsign, “Cajun”, was the first F-35A Lightning II pilot to fly on the Thunderbirds team in the F-16.

In a February 2017 release, Maj. Del Bagno talked about the capabilities of the F-35A Lightning II he was flying at the time, “This jet is going to take us to 2050 and beyond. As threats evolve, we need to continually stay ahead of them. It’s a multi role platform and this proves how versatile the aircraft can be. We can shoot missiles, we can drop bombs, so we can take the fight to the enemy.”

No further information has been released about the accident. As is common with any military aviation accident a formal investigation is being conducted by the U.S. Air Force.

Thunderbird diamond (credit: Tom Demerly/TheAviationist)

Thunderbird Pilot Killed in Crash at Nevada Test and Training Range

It’s the third crash in less than two years for the demo team.

The U.S. Air Force Flight Demonstration Team, The Thunderbirds, confirmed in a Tweet just before midnight last night, April 4, that one of their pilots died in the crash of an F-16 over the Nevada Test and Training Range near Nellis AFB outside Las Vegas, Nevada.

The fatal crash happened during a scheduled training flight on Wednesday at approximately 10:30 AM according to news reports. Identity of the pilot killed in the accident has not been released by the Air Force. A crash investigation is also underway.

This accident from a U.S. military aircraft follows two crashes by U.S. Marine aircraft in the U.S. and in Africa over the last two days that resulted in four fatalities. A U.S. Marine CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter crashed in the U.S. earlier this week and a U.S. Marine AV-8B Harrier VSTOL attack aircraft crashed in Djibouti, Africa that same day. Four fatalities were reported in the CH-53E crash in the U.S. while the pilot of the AV-8B that crashed in Djibouti ejected from his aircraft and was reported to have walked to an ambulance following the accident.

Although it could be completely unrelated, the fatal Thunderbird accident from yesterday follows the late 2017 replacement of the Thunderbirds then-commanding officer. Former Thunderbird commanding officer Lt. Col. Jason Heard was relieved of command of the Air Force Flight Demonstration Team in late November of last year. The official reason cited for his removal from the position was a “loss of confidence’. Following his removal from command of the Thunderbirds Lt. Col. Heard was replaced by Thunderbirds’ operations officer, Lt. Col. Kevin Walsh, according to Air Combat Command at the time. Lt. Col. Kevin Walsh has remained the Commander/Flight Lead of the Thunderbirds.

The latest deadly crash comes less than one year after an incident involving a U.S. Air Force F-16D Fighting Falcon that flipped over after landing at Dayton International Airport in Ohio during a single-ship familiarization flight on Friday June 23, 2017. The pilot sustained injuries and the crewmember was uninjured.

According to the accident investigation report, “Excess airspeed and insufficient stopping distance on a wet runway” caused the aircraft to depart the runway and overturn in the grass.

Previously, on Jun. 2, 2016 a Thunderbirds F-16 crashed shortly after the demo team had performed a flyover at the annual Air Force graduation ceremony in Colorado Springs. The pilot managed to eject before the aircraft crash landed in a field not far from Peterson AFB, Colorado. The cause of the F-16CM #6 crash was found in “a throttle trigger malfunction and inadvertent throttle rotation.”

The Thunderbirds have cancelled their appearance this weekend at the March Field Air and Space Expo in Riverside County, California. No official announcement about the remainder of the team’s 2018 show schedule has been made.

Combat Aircraft from Israel, UAE, Greece, Italy, UK and U.S. Take Part in Ex. “INIOCHOS 2018”

From Greece with love.

Exercise “INIOCHOS” is a yearly medium-scale exercise hosted by the Hellenic Air Force at the facilities of the Air Tactics Center at Andravida Air Base, located in the Northwest Peloponnese, Greece.

The “layout” of the exercise is quite standard: two weeks in length (including deployment and re-deployment of the assets), the exercise scenario adopts a Single Base Concept with air operation launched from an MOB (Main Operating Base). It’s a so-called Invitex, meaning that the drills is organized and run by the HAF but also attended by invited nations aircraft as well. In order to make the training realistic, the participating units “are exposed to an intensive battle rhythm with realistic attrition rates and challenging scenarios that include multiple modern threats and real time live injects tailored to produce the fog of war and the friction effect (per Clausewitz) which is expected to dominate the modern battlefield and test both the physical and psychological endurance of the modern fighter.”

Israeli Air Force F-16C taking off during Iniochos 2018 media day.

The HFWS (Hellenic Fighter Weapons School) oversees the missions from scenario planning to debriefing and makes certain that they cover the full spectrum of missions currently performed by the HAF and allied nations, including

– Air operations versus Integrated Air Defense System (IADS)
– Offensive Counter Air / Airfield Attack
– Air Interdiction / Special Targets (bridges, power stations, vehicles, etc.).
– Anti Surface Warfare
– Slow Mover Protection (SLOMO)
– Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR).
– Dynamic Targeting (DT) / Strike Coordination and Reconnaissance (SCAR) / Close Air Support (CAS) / Time Sensitive Targets (TST).
– High Value Airborne Asset (HVAA) Protect/Attack

One of the Italian Air Force Tornado IDS from Ghedi.

This year’s edition of “Iniochos” was attended by a wide variety of combat aircraft from 6 nations (including Greece). Among them, 6x Mirage 2000-9EAD/DAD belonging to the 71 Sqn  of the UAE AF from Al Dhafra; 4x F-16C “Barak” with 117 Sqn Israeli AF from Ramat David; 5x Tornado from the 6th Stormo, Italian Air Force, based in Ghedi; 4x Typhoon FGR4 from 3 Sqn from RAF Coningsby; 13x F-15E Strike Eagle from 492FS from RAF Lakenheath as well as some +30x F-16, 4x F-4E, 4x Mirage 2000 and 1x EMB-145H AEW&C belonging to various squadrons of the HAF.

HAF Mirage 2000 during taking off at dusk.

In this post you can find some photographs taken at Andravida by The Aviationist’s contributors Claudio Tramontin and Simone Marcato.

RAF Typhoon FGR4

UAE AF Mirage 2000-9

Close-up view of a U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle.

One of the four F-4E Phantom belonging to 338 Mira.

HA F-16D

Image credit: Claudio Tramontin, Simone Marcato

U.S. Air Force C-5M Super Galaxy Performs Nose Gear Up Landing. Again..

It’s the second time a Super Galaxy lands on nose after gear malfunction in less than one year.

On Mar. 15, an Air Force Reserve Command C-5M Super Galaxy performed an emergency landing at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas: a failure caused the airlifter to land on its nose, skidding three-quarters of the way down the 11,500-foot runway before coming to a stop.

There were 11 personnel on board, but no injuries were reported.

Noteworthy, although this was the first incident of this kind for the 433rd Airlift Wing, it’s the second time a C-5M lands on its nose in less than one year. Indeed, a Super Galaxy performed a nose gear up landing at Rota Air Base in Spain in May 2017.

As a consequence of a second malfunction of a C-5’s nose landing gear (occurred on Jul. 15), the U.S. Air Force initially grounded 18 Galaxy cargo planes based at Dover Air Force Base (out of 56 flown by the Air Mobility Command) pending further investigation, on Jul. 18. But, on the very next day, AMC’s Gen. Carlton Everhart ordered a fleetwide assessment of the command’s 56 C-5s.

During the assessment, maintainers found that the ball-screw drive assembly was causing issues with the extension and retraction of the nose landing gear.

The ball-screw assembly was replaced for all C-5s in the fleet (including the aircraft involved in the latest incident) and the Super Galaxy cargo aircraft slowly returned to service: the grounding was lifted for 5 C-5s at the beginning of August; at the beginning of September 2017, 38 out of 56 aircraft were ready to fly again.  On Sept. 18, the first C-5M to ever land at Princess Juliana Airport in St. Maarten, as part of the Hurricane Irma relief efforts, was the example 86-0020, the same involved in a nose gear up landing at Rota Air Base, on May 23, 2017.

Initial information suggests last week’s incident at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland is an isolated event, AMC spokesperson told Air Force Times. However, the frequency of nose gear issues (three in less than one year, with two of those causing nose gear up landings) seems at least a bit unusual.

For some details about Galaxy historical nose gear up or belly landings, read this post we published a few months ago.

Top image credit: screenshot from KCBY-TV

Details Emerge About Tragic Loss of Elite Air Force Pararescue Crew and Helicopter in Iraq.

A USAF HH-60 From Alaska Crashes, Crew of Seven Die Near Al-Qaim, Iraq on Thursday.

All seven crew members on board a U.S. Air Force HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter were killed when it crashed in Iraq on Thursday, March 15, 2018. The aircraft belonged to the Alaska Air National Guard’s 176th Wing from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska. None of the crew killed in the crash were from Alaska according to a report filed in the Air Force Times on Friday, March 16, by journalist Stephen Losey.

The crash occurred in Anbar Province outside Al-Qaim, Iraq on the Syrian/Iraqi border 400 kilometers northwest of Baghdad along the Euphrates River.

The cause of the crash is unknown at this time. A New York Times story published Friday, March 16, 2018 by Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Al Baker reported that, “American officials could not immediately say why the aircraft went down killing all seven service members on board, although enemy fire was not believed to be the cause.”

The HH-60G Pave Hawk is an Air Force specific version of the Blackhawk helicopter with significant modifications for the combat rescue role and it is generally regarded as the most advanced version of the aircraft. Photos of the HH-60G Pave Hawks based at the Alaska Air National Guard’s 176th Wing often show the aircraft operating in the high mountains, equipped with snow-ski landing gear. When deployed to the Middle East the aircraft uses standard landing gear. The website for the Alaska Air National Guard 176th Wing lists only one squadron, the 210th Rescue Squadron, as operating the HH-60G. The 210th Rescue Squadron lists six HH-60G Pave Hawks on their official Air Force unit page.

The Air Force Times identified one of the Airmen killed in the crash as USAF Staff Sgt. Carl Enis. Sgt. Enis was an Air Force Reserve Pararescue operator from the 308th Rescue Squadron, 920th Rescue Wing from Patrick Air Force Base in Brevard County, Florida. As a reserve Air Force Pararescueman, Enis also had a civilian career as a commercial real estate salesman in Tallahassee, Florida. He was described in media reports as, “an avid outdoorsman and devoted friend who had a knack for bringing people from different backgrounds together”.

Pararescue operator Staff Sgt. Carl Enis of the 308th Rescue Squadron at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida, is reported to be among the service members who died in the HH-60G Pavehawk crash in Iraq late Thursday. (Photo: Courtesy USAF)

Not all of the names of the personnel who died in Thursday’s crash have been released. USAF Central Command spokesperson Lt. Col. Damien Pickart reported via email on Friday that two of the seven airmen killed were Pararescue operators. Lt. Col. Pickart indicated the Department of Defense is expected to post the names and units of all of the airmen by Saturday afternoon.

A post did appear on the New York City Fire Department’s Facebook page saying that two of its firefighters, Christopher Zanetis and Christopher Raguso, were also killed in Thurday’s crash. Their Air Force rank was not indicated in the post.

The ABC affiliate in New York, ABC7, reported that Zanetis and Raguso and an additional two Airmen killed in the crash were members of the New York Air National Guard’s 106th Rescue Wing from Gabreski Airport in Westhampton, New York.

U.S. Air Force Pararescue units are credited with saving “over 1,000 lives in the Global War on Terror since 9/11” according to a 2011 report. During the 2005 hurricane Katrina between Florida and Texas in the United States, Air Force Pararescue operators of the 943rd Rescue Group from Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, Arizona were credited with rescuing 1,043 people. Air Force Pararescue is generally regarded as one of the most capable special operations units in the world specifically tasked with combat rescue operations.

Top image: File photo of USAF HH-60G Pavehawk helicopter of the 210th Rescue Squadron. (Photo: USAF)