Maj. Stephen Del Bagno, a United States Air Force Thunderbirds pilot and a graduate of Saugus High School who died on April 4 during a routine aerial training flight in the Nevada Test and Training Range, lost consciousness before the fatal crash, according to a report released by the Air Force.
Del Bagno, who was the Slot Pilot flying the No. 4 jet, took part in the “High Bomb Burst Rejoin” maneuver at the end of the standard Thunderbirds demonstration training flight – flying approximately 22 seconds in inverted flight between 5,500-5,700 feet above ground – when he experienced a change in force due to acceleration.
“While experiencing -2.06 G’s in inverted flight, (Del Bagno) initiated a descending half-loop maneuver (Split-S),” the report said. “After five seconds in the Split-S, (Del Bagno) attained a maximum +8.56 G’s. (Del Bagno) experienced G-induced loss of consciousness (G-LOC) and absolute incapacitation at the end of that five-second period.”
According to the report, Del Bagno regained some consciousness and began deliberate flight control inputs but crashed approximately one second later. He did not have time to eject.
It was determined the loss of consciousness Del Bagno experienced was due to the “push-pull effect,” resulting from the rapid change of about minus-2 Gs to more than 8 Gs.
Del Bagno, whose call sign was “Cajun,” graduated from Saugus High in 2001. He had logged 3,500 total flight hours in over 30 different aircraft, with 1,400 hours as an Air Force pilot, according to his biography on the Thunderbirds website. He was only in his first season with the Thunderbirds team.
To view the report, click [here].