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.
Welcome to the TBAA Community
“I firmly believe in “Once a Thunderbird, Always a Thunderbird” and as such we should work together to support one another in achieving goals designed to benefit our Thunderbird family.”
In that spirit, we have coordinated with the TBAA board to develop a list of common goals aimed at making our institution stronger. These goals include:
- Clean, catalog, and digitally preserve artifacts in the Thunderbird bunker
- Restructure and formalize the Honorary Thunderbird program with alumni involvement
- Organize and execute the first Commander/Leader forum
- Restructure and formalize the VIP ticket process and availability
- Adjust plans and schedules to maximize Team participation with the alumni reunion
- Create opportunities for alumni to recruit, retain and inspire future Thunderbirds