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.”


U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Robert C. O'Brien arrives to the district court, during the second day of ASAP Rocky's trial, in Stockholm, Sweden August 1, 2019. (Reuters/TT News Agency/Fredrik Persson)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump on Wednesday named U.S. hostage negotiator Robert O'Brien as his choice to replace John Bolton as his national security adviser, making him the fourth person to hold the post in the Trump administration.

Read More Show Less

Editor's Note: This article by Gina Harkins originally appeared on, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

QUANTICO MARINE CORPS BASE, Virginia -- Textron Systems is working with the Navy to turn a mine-sweeping unmanned surface vessel designed to work with Littoral Combat Ships into a mine-hunting craft armed with Hellfire missiles and a .50-caliber machine gun.

Textron displayed the proof-of-concept, surface-warfare mission package designed for the Common Unmanned Surface Vehicle (CUSV) at Modern Day Marine 2019.

"It's a huge capability," Wayne Prender, senior vice president for Applied Technologies and Advanced Programs at Textron Systems, told on Tuesday.

Read More Show Less
Joel Marrable (Laquna Ross via CNN)

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs put on leave an Atlanta-based administrator and reassigned the region's chief medical officer and seven other staff members while it investigates the treatment of a veteran under its care.

Joel Marrable's daughter discovered more than 100 ant bites on her father when she visited him in early September.

The daughter, Laquna Ross, told Channel 2 Action News: "His room had ants, the ceiling, the walls, the beds. They were everywhere. The staff member says to me, 'When we walked in here, we thought Mr. Marrable was dead. We thought he wasn't even alive, because the ants were all over him.'"

Read More Show Less
he amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8) returns to homeport at Naval Base San Diego on February 25, 2015. (U.S. Navy/ Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Corwin Colbert)

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — A former U.S. Navy sailor was sentenced to 20 years in prison Monday for having sexual contact with a 14-year-old Oceanside girl in 2017, federal prosecutors in San Diego said in a statement.

Read More Show Less

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Known for acting on impulse, President Donald Trump has adopted an uncharacteristically go-slow approach to whether to hold Iran responsible for attacks on Saudi oil facilities, showing little enthusiasm for confrontation as he seeks re-election next year.

After state-owned Saudi Aramco's plants were struck on Saturday, Trump didn't wait long to fire off a tweet that the United States was "locked and loaded" to respond, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed Iran.

But four days later, Trump has no timetable for action. Instead, he wants to wait and see the results of investigations into what happened and is sending Pompeo to consult counterparts in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates this week.

Read More Show Less