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USAF Thunderbirds name new pilot

Posted: 9:13 AM, Apr 26, 2018
Updated: 2018-04-26 11:13:26-04

On April 4th, United States Air Force Thunderbird Pilot Major Stephen Del Bagno was killed when his F-16 jet crashed during training exercises in Nevada.

Del Bagno was a 2005 graduate of Utah Valley State University who received his commission from Officer Training School in 2007. His prior experience included work as a civilian flight instructor, corporate pilot, skywriter and as a banner tow pilot. He previously served an an F-35A Evaluator Pilot and Chief of Standardization and Evaluation, 58th Fighter Squadron, Eglin AFB, Fla.

Del Bagno’s crash was the third Thunderbird crash in the past two years and caused the cancellation of several shows.

The Air Force has now named a replacement for Major Del Bagno, Major Nick "Khan" Krajicek. 

According to the Air Force, Krajicek is an experienced Thunderbird alumnus who performed as the Slot Pilot during the 2016 and 2017 show seasons. He will now serve as the 4/Slot Pilot for the remainder of the 2018 show season. To facilitate Krajicek’s requalification training, two of the Thunderbird’s upcoming shows have been canceled, April 28th in Charleston, South Carolina and May 5th in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Major Krajicek has logged more than 3,400 flight hours as a military pilot, with more than 650 hours of combat experience. He flew UH-60 Blackhawks in the Army, is an F-16C/D Fighting Falcon instructor pilot, and was commissioned into the Air Force in 2004.

“We’re grateful to have Khan coming back to the team,” said Lt. Col. Kevin Walsh, Thunderbird 1, Commander/Leader. “His experience and familiarity with our team’s mission and the demonstration profile make him the right choice as we safely make our way back on the road to recruit, retain and inspire once more.”

The Thunderbird’s participation at a show scheduled for May 12th at Laughlin Air Force Base in Texas is yet to be determined and will depend upon the team’s readiness to perform a safe 6-ship aerial demonstration.

The Thunderbird’s schedule for the remainder of 2018 can be found below:

2018 Show Season Schedule

April 28: JB Charleston, South Carolina – “Charleston Air Expo”             CANCELED 

May 5-6: Fort Lauderdale, Florida – “Fort Lauderdale Air Show”             CANCELED

May 12: Laughlin AFB, Texas – “Laughlin AFB Open House                   STATUS UNDETERMINED

May 19-20: Langley AFB, Virginia – “AirPower Over Hampton Roads”

May 23: USAF Academy, Colorado

May 26-27: Cannon AFB, New Mexico – “Cannon AFB Air Show”

June 2-3: Mountain Home AFB, Idaho – “Gunfighter Skies 2018 Air Show”

June 9-10: Niagara Falls ARS, New York – “Thunder Over Niagara”

June 16-17: Ocean City, Maryland – “OC Air Show”

June 23-24: Hill AFB, Utah – “The Utah Air Show”

June 30-1 July: JB Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska – “Arctic Thunder Air Show”

July 7-8: Duluth, Minnesota – “Duluth Air and Aviation Expo”

July 14-15: Westover ARB, Massachusetts – “The Great New England Air Show”

July 21-22: Milwaukee, Wisconsin – “Milwaukee Air & Water Show”

July 25: Cheyenne, Wyoming – “Frontier Days Air Show”

July 28-29: Latrobe, Pennsylvania – “Westmoreland County Air Show”

August 4: Minot AFB, North Dakota – “Minot AFB Air Show”

August 18-19: Chicago, Illinois – “60th Chicago Air & Water Show”

August 22: Atlantic City, New Jersey – “Thunder over the Boardwalk”

August 25-26: Ypsilanti, Michigan – “Thunder Over Michigan Air Show”

September 1-3: Toronto, Canada – “Canadian International Air Show”

September 8-9: McConnell AFB, Kansas – “McConnell AFB Open House”

September 15-16: New Windsor, New York – “New York Air Show”

September 22-23: Mather, California – “California Capital Air Show”

September 29-30: Salinas, California – “California International Airshow”

October 6-7: Baltimore, Maryland – “Maryland Fleet Week and Air Show”

October 13-14: Fort Worth, Texas – “Fort Worth Alliance Air Show”

October 20-21: Huntington Beach, California – “Breitling Huntington Beach Air Show”

October 27-28: Little Rock AFB, Arkansas – “Thunder Over the Rock”

November 3-4: Homestead ARB, Florida – “Wings Over Homestead”