Thunderbirds cancel more air show performances after deadly crash

The Air Force Thunderbirds canceled appearances at two more air shows after a pilot was killed during practice last week at the Nevada Test and Training Range.

And more cancellations were possible, Lt. Col. Kevin Walsh, Thunderbirds team leader, said in a video posted on the team’s Facebook page.

Maj. Stephen “Cajun” Del Bagno, who flew the Thunderbirds No. 4 jet in the six-aircraft jet team, died in the crash over the Nevada desert April 4.

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“His loss comes as a shock to his family, friends and wing men,” Walsh said. “We remember Cajun as an airman, a warrior, a talented fighter pilot and a great friend with more than 3,500 flight hours in over 30 different aircraft. He lived to fly and inspire the next generation.”

The Thunderbirds planned a memorial service for Del Bagno this week.

RELATED: Thunderbirds jet involved in Dayton crash moved to Wright-Patterson 

The team’s was taking care of their fallen comrade’s family and the squadron, Walsh said. The Thunderbirds would resume flying ”when the time is right,” he said.

The Thunderbirds canceled April 14-15 appearances at the “Sun-N-Fun Fly-In & Expo” in Lakeland, Fla., and the “Wings Over Columbus” air show April 21-22 at Columbus Air Force Base, Miss.

Last weekend’s scheduled appearance at March Air Reserve Base in California also was canceled.

RELATED: Excessive speed blamed for Thunderbird crash in Dayton

The crash was the most serious since a Thunderbird jet flipped over and ran off a runway at Dayton International Airport last June during a familiarization flight, trapping two crewmen until they were rescued by first responders.

An Air Force investigation determined excessive speed and landing too far down on a wet runway contributed to the incident.

The mishap injured then team narrator and F-16 pilot Capt. Erik Gonsalves, who was hospitalized for leg injuries, and destroyed the $29.2 million fighter jet on June 23, according to the Air Force. A second crewman who was a backseat passenger in the F-16D jet was uninjured, the Air Force said.

The Thunderbirds are scheduled to appear at the Vectren Dayton Air Show during the 2019 show season.

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