Pilot Blacked Out During High-G Maneuver, Report Indicates
Air Combat Command has released an accident investigation board report regarding the F-16 Thunderbird accident which occurred April 4, 2018. Major Stephen Del Bagno(pictured) , call sign “Cajun”, an F-16CM pilot assigned to the United States Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, the “Thunderbirds,” was fatally injured when his airplane went down while engaged in a routine aerial demonstration training flight at the Nevada Test and Training Range (NTTR) near Creech AFB, Nevada.
The mishap took place during a practice of the “High Show” version of the Thunderbirds aerial demonstration in the south part of the NTTR. During the “High Bomb Burst Rejoin” maneuver near the scheduled end of the aerial demonstration training flight, the pilot spent approximately 22 seconds in inverted flight between 5,500 and 5,700 feet above the ground level. After transitioning into a descending half-loop maneuver (Split-S) the pilot experienced a gravity induced loss of consciousness (G-LOC).
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 Air Force is constantly evaluating its procedures with regard to flight safety, and the Thunderbirds will incorporate the findings of this report into their procedures and process improvements.
(Source: USAF news release and report. Image from file)