Report: Thunderbirds pilot killed in crash lost consciousness before crash

Local News

The Thunderbirds pilot killed outside Las Vegas earlier this year lost consciousness during a practice flight before crashing, according to a report from the U.S. Air Force Accident Investigation Board.

“The MP experienced G-induced loss of consciousness (G-LOC) and absolute incapacitation at the end of that five-second period,” the report said. “For approximately the next five seconds, the MP remained in a state of absolute incapacitation and made no deliberate flight control inputs as the MA accelerated toward the ground. Approximately one second prior to ground impact, the MP began deliberate flight control inputs as he transitioned from absolute to relative incapacitation. The MA impacted the ground at 57 degrees nose low with 89 degrees of left bank and the MP was fatally injured on impact, without an ejection attempt.”

The pilot crashed over the Nevada Test and Training Range on April 4.

According to officials with Nellis Air Force Base, the pilot was killed when his F-16 Fighting Falcon crashed during a routine aerial demonstration training flight in central Nevada. The area is near the Desert Wildlife Refuge.

The training range covers some 4,500 square miles  (11,655 sq. kilometers)

The report says before the crash, Major Stephen Del Bagno lost consciousness from the G-force maneuver.  

“The Accident Investigation Board (AIB) President found by a preponderance of evidence the cause of the mishap was the MP’s G-LOC during the Split-S portion of the High Bomb Burst Rejoin maneuver, according to the report. “Additionally, the AIB President found by a preponderance of evidence two factors substantially contributed to the mishap: (a) the MP’s diminished tolerance to +G’s induced by the physiology of the MP’s exposure to –G’s (“Push-Pull Effect”) and (b) an associated decrease in the effectiveness of the MP’s Anti-G straining maneuver under those conditions.”

There weren’t any other problems with the plane or other health concerns noted before takeoff that would have contributed to the crash, the report said.

To read the findings of the report go here.

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