Retired Fighting Falcon part of Thunderbird exhibit

The F-16A model on display was one of the first F-16s to be received by the Thunderbirds in 1982 when they transitioned from T-38s. The Thunderbirds continued to fly this aircraft until 1992 when they converted to F-16Cs. (U.S. Air Force photo by Misuzu Allen)

The F-16A model on display was one of the first F-16s to be received by the Thunderbirds in 1982 when they transitioned from T-38s. The Thunderbirds continued to fly this aircraft until 1992 when they converted to F-16Cs. (U.S. Air Force photo by Misuzu Allen)

The F-16A model on display was one of the first F-16s to be received by the Thunderbirds in 1982 when they transitioned from T-38s. The Thunderbirds continued to fly this aircraft until 1992 when they converted to F-16Cs. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ed Aspera)

The F-16A model on display was one of the first F-16s to be received by the Thunderbirds in 1982 when they transitioned from T-38s. The Thunderbirds continued to fly this aircraft until 1992 when they converted to F-16Cs. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ed Aspera)

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- The Thunderbird display opened in 2009 at the Century of Flight hangar at the Museum of Aviation. 

The Air Force combat F-16A was the first F-16 model used by the Thunderbirds, the Air Force's official air demonstration team.

The aircraft on display flew from 1982 to 1991. The plane was converted from its combat role to that of a demonstration aircraft, removing the guns and putting in a smoke machine.

"They demonstrate the capabilities of the Air Force combat airplane," said museum curator Mike Rowland.

Called the Fighting Falcon, the F-16 can reach speeds up to Mach 2 and has been used in all 50 states as well as 57 foreign countries as part of the demonstration squadron.

Also, as part of the exhibit, a glass case displays a Thunderbird uniform worn by former pilot Maj. Jeffrey Fiebig who, in 1994, was selected as pilot, No. 4 for the team.

Inside the cockpit, the museum has an authentic helmet from the Thunderbirds.

There are two videos of the Thunderbirds which are located in the kiosks next to the aircraft.

In Norfolk, Va., the Thunderbirds flew its 3,000th air show in 1990. In 1991, the Thunderbirds added flags from Switzerland, Poland and Hungary to the flag panel, becoming the first team to fly over former Warsaw Pact countries, according to the Thunderbirds website.

The aircraft at the museum was used as an instruction plane in Texas before being retired to the museum in 2008.

Visitors to the museum get an up-close view of the aircraft, something many are unable to do at an air show.

"It's one of the most photographed exhibits," said Rowland.