UPDATED: Thunderbirds pilot killed in crash during routine training flight

The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds Flight Demonstration Team soars above Moody Air Force Base, Ga., during the "Thunder Over South Georgia Air Show," Oct. 28, 2017. A Thunderbirds pilot was killed Wednesday in a crash during a routine training flight in Nevada. | Photo by Senior Airman Daniel Snider, courtesy of the U.S. Air Force, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A Thunderbirds pilot was killed Wednesday morning when his F-16 Fighting Falcon out of Nellis Air Force Base crashed over the Nevada Test and Training Range during a routine aerial demonstration training flight, according to a statement from the U.S. Air Force.

Update April 5, 1:30 p.m. The pilot of the F-16 has been identified by the Air Force as Maj. Stephen Del Bagno, a Thunderbird 4 squadron slot pilot.

The identity of the pilot is being withheld for 24 hours pending next of kin notification. An investigation is being conducted into the cause of the mishap, which occurred around 10:30 a.m. on the 4,500-square-mile training range.

The Thunderbirds’ participation at the March Air Reserve Base “The March Field Air & Space Expo” has been canceled, the statement said, adding that it is unknown how the incident will impact the remainder of the team’s season this year. The Thunderbirds, based out of Nellis, are the Air Force’s premier aerial demonstration team, performing at shows and special events worldwide. 

The incident was the third U.S. military aircraft crash this week.

Four crew members were killed when a Marine CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter crashed Tuesday in California during a training mission along the U.S.-Mexico border west of El Centro.

The same day, a Marine Harrier jet crashed during takeoff from an airport in the East African nation of Djibouti. The pilot ejected and was medically evaluated.

Last September at Nellis, a U.S. Air Force pilot died of injuries after a crash on the training range about 100 miles northwest of the base. Officials did not disclose the type of aircraft Lt. Col. Eric Schultz had been piloting. He was assigned to a military command that conducts research and weapon system tests.

In January, an unspecified military aircraft aborted takeoff and caught fire at Nellis, but no serious injuries were reported.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Twitter: @STGnews

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