Oscar winner Brie Larson posts tribute to Air Force pilot and Utah Valley grad killed in Thunderbirds crash

Maj. Stephen Del Bagno was killed when his aircraft crashed during a practice aerial demonstration on April 4. ( Master Sgt. Christopher Boitz/U.S. Air Force)

Movie star Brie Larson has posted a heartfelt tribute to the U.S. Air Force pilot who was killed when his Thunderbirds jet crashed during a practice aerial maneuver in the Nevada desert this week.

Maj. Stephen Del Bagno, 34, was killed Wednesday when his F-16 Fighting Falcon, known as Thunderbird 4, crashed in the Nevada Test and Firing Range north of Nellis Air Force Base, outside Las Vegas.

Del Bagno was a 2005 graduate of what was then Utah Valley State College in Orem, a former civilian flight instructor and banner tow pilot. And he apparently met Larson, the Academy Award-winning actor, when she visited Nellis to research her role for the superhero movie “Captain Marvel.”

“You were a brilliant pilot and an even better person,” Larson wrote in an Instagram post that went up Friday evening. “Thank you for inspiring me to work harder and live fuller.”

The post includes a photo of Del Bagno and Larson on a runway, both wearing flight suits and aviator sunglasses.

“When you talked about the Air Force; the adventure, the rituals, the community — I felt your passion and purpose,” Larson wrote. “Your humble attitude and ideals have stayed with me and inspired a stronger approach to my work. There is no Carol without you. You helped create her and I am forever grateful.”

Carol is Larson’s character in “Captain Marvel,” Carol Danvers, an Air Force pilot whose DNA becomes fused with an alien hero, giving her superpowers. The movie, part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise, is set for release March 8, 2019. Larson’s debut as the character is expected in “Avengers: Infinity War,” opening nationwide April 27.

In this image released by Warner Bros. Pictures, Brie Larson appears in a scene from, "Kong: Skull Island." (Chuck Zlotnick/Warner Bros. Pictures via AP)

Larson, 28, won the Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of a kidnapping victim in “Room.” She had leading roles in “Short Term 12,” “The Glass Castle” and “Kong: Skull Island.”

Larson refers to Del Bagno by his call sign, Cajun, and adds that “I hold the call sign you gave me with your fellow pilots and Thunderbird brothers with pride.” She ends the post with what appears to be her call sign, “Sparrow, forever” and a broken-heart emoji.