Air Force Thunderbirds Pilot Pulled Nearly 9G's Before Blacking Out In Fatal Crash


An Air Force pilot with the Thunderbirds flight demonstration team was killed in an April 4 crash after he lost consciousness while performing an aerial maneuver, the investigation into the incident determined.

Maj. Stephen Del Bagno died after his F-16CM went down at the Nevada Test and Training Range near Creech Air Force Base, Nevada.

Released on Tuesday, the investigation found that Del Bagno blacked out for five seconds after pulling 8.56 Gs. He regained his bearings one second before impact, but he was not able to pull the plane out of its dive.

Del Bagno “had a reputation for exceptional fitness” and had successfully performed many maneuvers that require pulling a lot of G-Forces, the investigation found. But being physically fit is not enough to protect against the effects of going from negative to positive G-Forces, which can cause a rapid drop in cerebral blood pressure.

Just prior to the crash, Del Bagno had been flying inverted, the investigation found. In the last two seconds of flying upside down, he endured a sharp increase in negative G forces, which lowered his blood pressure and heart rate at precisely the wrong time.

“The resulting outcome was more vascular space created by the widened blood vessels for the blood to flow away from the brain at the onset of the [positive G-Forces] and a lowered heart rate and blood pressure making it more difficult for the body to counter that dynamic,” the investigation said.

As a result, Del Bagno was not physically prepared when he began a descending half-loop maneuver called a “Split S,” during which he pulled nearly 9 Gs, according to the investigation, which said that he should have waited two extra seconds before pulling the stick up for the final maneuver.

Fighter pilots are taught several ways to prepare for the sudden onset of positive G forces to avoid losing consciousness, said retired Air Force Lt. Col. Darren Sorenson, a former F-15 pilot whom Task & Purpose consulted about this incident.

“Many other factors could have effected this pilots G tolerance on that particular day,” said Sorenson, who had not read the crash investigation. “Very sad and unfortunate mishap.”


Benjamin Franklin nailed it when he said, "Fatigue is the best pillow." True story, Benny. There's nothing like pushing your body so far past exhaustion that you'd willingly, even longingly, take a nap on a concrete slab.

Take $75 off a Casper Mattress and $150 off a Wave Mattress with code TASKANDPURPOSE

And no one knows that better than military service members and we have the pictures to prove it.

Read More Show Less
Staff Sgt. Daniel Christopher Evans was arrested on Jan. 29, 2018. (Photo courtesy of Wilmington Police Department, North Carolina.)

A special operations Marine is due in court on March 7 after being arrested last year for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend, Task & Purpose has learned.

Staff Sgt. Daniel Christopher Evans was arrested and charged with assault inflicting serious injury on July 29, 2018, according to Jennifer Dandron, a spokeswoman for police in Wilmington, North Carolina. Evans is currently assigned as a Critical Skills Operator with the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, according to the Marine Corps Personnel Locator.

Read More Show Less
U.S. Army 1st Lt. Elyse Ping Medvigy conducts a call-for-fire during an artillery shoot south of Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Aug. 22, 2014. Medvigy, a fire support officer assigned to the 4th Infantry Division's Company D, 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, is the first female company fire support officer to serve in an infantry brigade combat team supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Whitney Houston (Photo by U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Whitney Houston)

Following Trump's inauguration, some supporters of ground combat integration assumed he would quickly move to reinstate a ban on women in jobs like the infantry. When this did not happen, advocates breathed a collective sigh of relief, and hundreds of qualified women charted a course in history by entering the newly opened occupational fields.

So earlier this week when the Wall Street Journal published an editorial against women in ground combat by conservative political commentator Heather Mac Donald, the inclination of many ground combat integration supporters was to dismiss it outright. But given Trump's proclivity to make knee jerk policy decisions in response to falling approval ratings and the court's tradition of deference to the military when it comes to policies affecting good order and discipline, it would be unwise to assume the 2016 lifting of the ban on women in ground combat is a done deal.

Read More Show Less

R. Lee Ermey was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery on Friday.

Best known for his iconic role as the Marine Corps drill instructor Gunnery Sgt. Hartman in the war drama Full Metal Jacket, Ermey died April 15, 2018 at age 74 due to complications from pneumonia, Task & Purpose previously reported.

Read More Show Less
A B-2 Spirit bomber deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, and F-22 Raptors from the Hawaii Air National Guard's 154th Wing fly near Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, during a interoperability training mission Jan. 15, 2019. (U.S. Air Force/Master Sgt. Russ Scalf)

The U.S. Air Force has two of its most elite aircraft — the B-2 Spirit bomber and the F-22 Raptor — training together in the Pacific, reassuring America's allies and sending a warning to strategic competitors and adversaries about the sheer power the U.S. brings to the table.

These stunning photos show the powerful aircraft tearing across the Pacific, where the U.S. has increasingly found itself facing challenges from a rising China.

Read More Show Less