The Thunderbirds Flight Demonstration Team flies over Moody AFB, G.a, during the Thunder Over South Georgia Air Show, Oct. 29, 2017. USAF photo by SrA. Janiqua P. Robinson.
An Air Force Thunderbirds pilot was killed on Wednesday when his F-16 Fighting Falcon crashed over the Nevada Test and Training Range during a routine training flight, the Air Force announced late Wednesday night. The name of the pilot is being withheld pending next of kin notification.
The team will no longer participate in “The March Field Air & Space Expo,” which will be held April 7-8 at March ARB, Calif. It’s not clear when the team will begin flying again or what is the crash's potential impact on the remainder of the season, according to the release.
“Dawn & I are mourning the loss of one of our Thunderbird pilots, who died Wednesday in an F-16 crash near Nellis Air Force Base,” wrote Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein in a Facebook post. “Please join us in honoring our fallen Airman & sending heartfelt condolences to the pilot's family, teammates, friends & all who are grieving.”
The crash remains under investigation.
During the teams more than six decades of existence, some 20 Thunderbirds aircrew have died in accidents, including three during air shows. This is the third Thunderbirds mishap in two years.
In June 2017, a Thunderbirds F-16D crashed in Dayton, Ohio, after the aircraft landed too quickly in heavy rain, causing the aircraft to overrun the runway. The pilot in that incident sustained several injuries and the F-16 was destroyed at a loss of $29.2 million. The Thunderbirds commander at the time was later relieved of command following a loss of confidence in his “leadership and risk management style,” Air Combat Command announced.
Another Thunderbird F-16 crashed in Colorado in June 2016 minutes after a flyby of the Air Force Academy graduation where then-President Obama was speaking. Air Combat Command determined that a button stuck on the throttle, causing the accident. The pilot of that plane received only minor injuries.
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Memorial Day is a time to remember all those who died fighting for their country, just like A1C William Pitsenbarger, an Air Force pararescueman who took part in more than 250 rescue missions before he was killed at the age of 21. His selflessness and valor in the Vietnam War earned him an Air Force Cross and, eventually, a Medal of Honor.
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