Photo courtesy of the U.S. Air Force

Activated on June 1, 1953, at Luke Air Force Base, the Thunderbirds are the U.S. Air Force Demonstration Squadron, and represent the more than 700,000 active-duty Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard personnel and civilians serving around the world.

The team's Tucson performance is the third stop in its 59th show season, which will keep it on the road for more than 200 days.

Calling Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada home since 1956, the Thunderbirds squadron includes eight pilots - six of whom perform in the team's hour-long demonstration - along with 24 aircraft-maintenance specialists, several civilians and more than 120 enlisted personnel.

Before an airman can wear the Thunderbirds patch, a 21-day orientation program and an oral exam must be completed.

Officers who are chosen for this elite precision team serve two years, and enlisted personnel stay with the team for three to four years. Nearly half of this group is replaced each year, providing a variety of experience among its members.

Last season, the team traveled throughout the United States and Europe, visiting Finland for the first time.

If you go

Thunder and Lightning over Arizona Davis-Monthan Air Force Base 2012 Open House

When: April 14 and 15. Gates open at 8:30 a.m. Flying demonstrations start around 11 a.m. and end around 4:30 p.m.

Where: Davis-Monthan Air Force Base

Parking: Enter through the Craycroft gate or Swan gate off East Golf Links Road. Last entry is at 2 p.m. Handicap parking available at Craycroft gate only. There is no shuttle service or off-site parking for this year's open house. Plan to walk a long distance from the parking lot to the display areas.

Cost: Admission is free, but canned food donations for the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona will be accepted.

More information: d-mthunderandlightning.asp or