Thunderbird pilot killed in crash identified as experienced flyer
The Air Force Thunderbirds pilot who died in a fighter jet crash on Wednesday has been identified as an experienced flyer who worked as a consultant on the upcoming Captain Marvel film.
Maj. Stephen Del Bagno, who joined the Thunderbirds this season, was alone in a F-16 Fighting Falcon when it crashed in the Nevada desert outside Las Vegas on Wednesday morning.
The cause of the crash is under investigation, and the unit, known for performing daring aerial tricks and formations, canceled an appearance at a California air show this weekend.
“We are mourning the loss of Maj. Del Bagno,” said Brig. Gen. Jeannie Leavitt, commander of the 57th Wing at Nellis Air Force Base.
“He was an integral part of the 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.”
Del Bagno, of Valencia, Calif., graduated from Utah State University and worked as a flight instructor, corporate pilot, skywriter, and banner tow pilot before he joined the Air Force, according to his Thunderbirds bio.
He logged more than 3,500 flight hours, about a third of which he completed as an Air Force pilot.
More on Maj. Stephen Del Bagno:
He also worked as a consultant on Captain Marvel, a superhero film slated for 2019 starring Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, and Jude Law among many others.
Marvel Studios released a tribute to Del Bagno on Thursday night, saying, “We will miss him greatly; he’ll always be part of the team.”
Larson also used Del Bagno's call sign and tweeted, "I'm so sad. Will have more to say tomorrow. We miss you Cajun."
Del Bagno shook hands with Mike Pence during a visit to the base in January, and the Vice President issued a statement saying he was “deeply saddened” to hear the news.
“He was a courageous pilot & an inspiring American whose service will never be forgotten. Will be praying for his family, friends and fellow Thunderbirds during this difficult time.”
The crash on Wednesday came less than 24 hours after a Marine helicopter crash killed all four crew members on board. It was also the third accident involving the Thunderbirds since 2016.