The Thunderbirds have canceled two more shows in the wake of the crash that killed one of its pilots.
The Air Force’s elite demonstration team is also preparing to hold a memorial for Maj. Stephen Del Bagno, who died April 4 when his F-16 crashed at the Nevada Test and Training Range during what the Air Force described as routine aerial demonstration training.
“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,” Thunderbirds commander Lt. Col. Kevin Walsh, referring to Del Bagno by his call sign, said in a video posted Monday. “He lived to fly and inspire the next generation.”
Walsh said the Thunderbirds are preparing to hold a memorial service for Del Bagno this week to “honor Cajun’s legacy and celebrate his amazing life.”
“We’re taking care of Cajun’s family,” Walsh said. “The Air Force and the Thunderbirds are making sure that they have all the assistance they need in this difficult time.”
Walsh also said the Thunderbirds have canceled performances April 14 and 15 at the Sun-N-Fun Fly-In and Expo at Lakeland, Florida, and April 21 and 22 at Wings Over Columbus at Columbus Air Force Base in Mississippi.
Other shows may be canceled as well, he said.
Immediately after the crash, the Thunderbirds canceled their April 7 and 8 appearance at the March Field Air and Space Expo at March Air Reserve Base in California.
“When the time is right, we’ll get back to executing our mission to recruit, retain, and inspire,” Walsh said.
The Thunderbirds are also supporting one another as they mourn the loss of their friend and wingman, he said.
“We are a resilient team of high-performing professionals, and we’re holding each other up, but recognize we can’t always do it alone,” Walsh said, adding that the squadron is using the network of support agencies that is available to help its members through the grieving process.