Published Tuesday, April 10, 2018 | 11:08 a.m.
Updated Tuesday, April 10, 2018 | 12:43 p.m.
The Air Force’s Thunderbirds flight demonstration team has canceled shows for at least the next two weekends following a deadly training crash last week.
Shows this weekend in Lakeland, Fla., and April 21 and 22 at Columbus Air Force Base in Mississippi have been scrubbed, officials said. Performances last weekend at March Air Force Base in California also were canceled.
“Further cancellations may occur, and we’ll keep you posted as the schedule takes shape,” Lt. Col. Kevin Walsh, commander of the Thunderbirds, said today in a statement.
The team, based out of Nellis Air Force base near North Las Vegas, has performances scheduled at another 30 locations across the country through November.
The six-aircraft team’s slot pilot, Maj. Stephen “Cajun” Del Bagno, was killed Wednesday when his F-16 fighter jet crashed during a routine training flight over the Nevada Test and Training Range northwest of Las Vegas, officials said.
The Air Force has not released additional information on the crash or the circumstances surrounding it.
The shows were canceled to make it easier to provide support for Del Bagno’s family and the Thunderbirds team and “to ensure the safety of our flight operations,” Walsh said.
“His loss comes as a shock to his family, friends and wingmen,” Walsh said of Del Bagno in today’s statement. “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.”
Walsh said the Thunderbirds are focusing for now on taking care of Del Bagno’s family and the squadron. He said the team will host a memorial service this week to honor Del Bagno’s legacy and celebrate his life.
“When the time is right, we’ll get back to executing our mission: to recruit, retain and inspire,” Walsh said.