Javascript DHTML Drop Down Menu Powered by

Thunderbirds History - How It All Began

In 1947, while the jet age was still in its infancy, military aviation was hurtled into the future with the creation of the U.S. Air Force as a separate service. Just six years later, the Air Force wanted an air demonstration team.

The job of forming the team fell to Major Smokey Catledge, the unit's first commander/leader. His immediate task was to find six officers and 22 enlisted to form the first team and get them ready for their first demonstration at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. three weeks later.

The Air Force's official air demonstration team, designated the 3600th USAF Air Demonstration Unit/Flight, was activated on May 25, 1953. The unit adopted the name "Thunderbirds",influenced in part by the strong Native American culture and folklore from the southwestern United States where Luke Air Force Base is located. Three months later the name “Thunderbirds" was added to the unit designation.

Last Update: 02/19/2018


Welcome to the Thunderbirds Alumni Association website.

On it you will learn the history of the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, "Thunderbirds,"and the Thunderbird Alumni Association, as well. See the names of the more than 2,000 people who have worn the Thunderbirds patch. Alumni, Associates, Honorary Thunderbirds and Honorary Crew Chiefs can update their own profile by clicking on the "Member Login" button above.

If you have other questions, please contact Al Eakle, the administrator, below.

Contact Us
Send an Email to:


Download the free app on your smartphone.
Get it on Google Play Download on the App Store

  • Challenge Coins Still Available
    There are still several sets of the 60th anniversary challenge coin sets. Cost is $107.20, which included 3-day Priority Mail shipping....More
  • New challenge coin recognizes two Thunderbirds anniversaries
    The Thunderbirds Alumni Association (TBAA) will be launching a new fundraising effort to recognize two Thunderbirds anniversaries in 2018....More
  • TBAA Chairman Announces Results of Election
    As departing Chairman, I want to thank each of you for volunteering to serve on the TBAA Board of Directors (2018-2021). Your willingness to serve and the sacrifice of your personal time is appreciat...More
  • Mailing addresses sought for Thunderbirds alumni
    Invitations to the 2017 Thunderbirds reunion were sent out at the end of May. Because we have no contact information we were not able to send invitations to the following individuals. If your name is ...More
  • ACC Commander Selects Officers for Thunderbirds 2018 Demonstration Season
    June 29, 2017 – NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — The commander of Air Combat Command, Gen. Mike Holmes, has officially selected the officers who will be joining the United States Air Force Thunderbir...More
  • Thunderbirds Reunite For One Last Flight
    TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (AFNS) — The last time they met he was a young man, focused and lean, part of a precision team. After three decades they were once again reunited. Though he saw his form...More
  • New APPs available for Android, Apple mobile devices Those
    Those people with either an Android or Apple mobile device (phone, tablet or iPad) might want to download and check out TBAA’s new APP. The free downloads located in the Google Play store and Appleâ...More
  • Former Thunderbird pilot reunites with T-38 at Tyndall AFB
    By Tech. Sgt. Javier Cruz 325thFighter Wing Public Affairs Standing in the shadow of America’s premier 5th generation fighter aircraft would make any other aircraft pale in comparison, but one T...More
  • Challenge Coin Bottle Openers
    This dog tag-shaped bottle opener salutes both the current Thunderbirds team and Thunderbirds alumni who came before them. The Dog Tag Bottle Opener features the Thunderbirds Patch on one side, and th...More
  • Thunderbirds Posters
    The Thunderbirds Alumni Association is offering two different posters printed on photo paper measuring 16 x 20 inches. Posters are $30 each with an additional $5 for shipping, whether you buy one or m...More
  • 60th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Sets
    The Thunderbirds Alumni Association still has limited quantities of 60th anniversary commemorative coin sets. Each set features the 60th anniversary logo on one side and one of the eight different air...More
  • Thunderbirds Alumni Association offering new posters
    The Thunderbirds Alumni Association is offering two new posters through their website ( in the General Sales sub-tab under the Merchandise tab on the home page....More