Yankee Air Museum
|Location||Willow Run Airport, Van Buren Township, Michigan, United States|
The Yankee Air Museum is an aviation museum located at Willow Run Airport in Van Buren Township, Michigan. The museum has a small fleet of flying aircraft and a collection of static display aircraft outdoors.
The Yankee Air Force Inc. was founded in 1981 to pursue these goals:
- To preserve a part of Michigan's extensive aviation history.
- Acquire one of the original USAAF hangars and restore it to its original condition.
- Obtain a B-24 Liberator built at the Ford Willow Run plant, site of the museum.
Rebuilding physically and organizationally
On the night of October 9, 2004, the Yankee Air Museum's hangar on the northeast side of Willow Run Airport (KYIP) burned down. The B-17, B-25 and C-47 were saved through heroic efforts by museum volunteers. The Stinson was at another hangar. Everything else inside the hangar was destroyed, including the original prototype North American YOV-10A Bronco, Waco CG-4A Glider, a former Thunderbirds Republic F-105, Aero L-39, Link Trainer, artifacts, spare parts, tools, and the Museum's library.
Rebuilding plans were underway within days and in 2008, the museum transitioned from being a membership club to a director-driven organization with an 11-member board. The objective of the museum's fundraising arm, the Michigan Aerospace Foundation, was to build a greatly expanded, state-of-the-art aviation museum and aerospace facility to replace the lost facility. Ground was broken for a new museum building in April 2007.
In 2009, museum purchased a building from the Michigan Institute of Aviation and Technology (MIAT), on D Street to the east of the airfield, intended as the new home of the museum collection.
In summer 2010, the museum opened the David and Andrea Robertson Education Center in a 1938 schoolhouse that had been moved from another part of the Willow Run complex. This had been the officers' club for the USAAF detachments stationed at Willow Run during the war, and was apparently the schoolhouse for the boys living at Henry Ford's Willow Run Farm (a social experiment that used the Willow Run site in 1939 and 1940 before the airfield and industrial complex were ever conceived).
The museum reopened to the public on October 10, 2010, six years to the day after the fire. This allowed the museum to vacate Hangar Two, which had recently been condemned by the Wayne County Airport Authority.
Willow Run bomber plant as a new home for the museum
In April 2013 Yankee Air Museum and RACER Trust, owner of the former General Motors Willow Run plant, announced a plan for Yankee Air Museum to acquire a 175,000-square-foot (16,300 m2) portion of the factory, contingent upon the museum raising the funds necessary to preserve and secure their proposed portion of the facility. The museum would consolidate operations scattered on various parcels at Willow Run Airport into the 1941 landmark, designed by Albert Kahn, with the trust seeking to clear the remainder of the plant for redevelopment. The plant was used during World War II to manufacture B-24 bombers.
The campaign to save a portion of Willow Run for the Yankee Air Museum is called SaveTheBomberPlant.org, and is centered on a fundraising website by the same name. The campaign has attracted national and international attention from media outlets that include National Public Radio, The History Channel magazine, National Geographic TV, The Guardian (UK), and the (UK) Daily Mail.
After extending the fundraising deadline to Oct. 1, and then to Nov. 1, 2013, on October 26, 2013, RACER Trust and the Yankee Air Museum again reached a new, and final, deadline extension agreement. The final deadline to raise the funds necessary to preserve a portion of the Willow Run plant for the Yankee Air Museum was May 1, 2014.
At the time of the May 1, 2014 deadline, the Yankee Air Museum had raised over $7 million of its original $8 million fundraising goal, which was enough to enable the trust to move forward and sign a Purchase Agreement with Yankee, with the actual purchase expected to be finalized in late summer or fall of 2014.
The majority of the $8 million fundraising goal reflects separation costs to make the preserved portion of the plant viable as a standalone structure.
Meantime, the remaining portion of the Willow Run complex, which includes over 95% of the historic building, has been sold to Walbridge, Inc. for redevelopment as a connected vehicle research and test facility. RACER Trust will demolish this portion of the building prior to turning the property over to Walbridge.
Preparations for demolition of Willow Run Assembly facility, with the exception of the portion that the Yankee Air Museum is campaigning to save, are observed to be well underway as of August 2014, with much of the building already demolished.
The Yankee Air Museum's Collections & Exhibits building covers 47,000 square feet (4,400 m2) of floor space and houses permanent and rotating aviation and historical displays, restoration projects, a retail store and a movie theatre that is available to the public. It is also home to Yankee Air Museum staff and volunteers and has meeting rooms and banquet facilities for rent, machine shops and storage space for the museum collection. An outside area next to the museum is the new home of the air park.
The Museum's flyable aircraft include:
- 1944 Boeing B-17G-110VE Flying Fortress 44-85829 Yankee Lady - ex-PB-1G 77255
- 1943 North American B-25D Mitchell 43-3634 Yankee Warrior - veteran of 8 combat missions over Italy
- 1944 Douglas C-47 Skytrain Yankee Doodle Dandy
The Museum Airpark also contains a number of retired aircraft. These aircraft include:
- B-52D Stratofortress
- UH-1P Huey
- F-86L Dog Sabre
- F-84F Thunderstreak
- RF-84F Thunderflash
- F-101B Voodoo
- Lockheed T-33B
- RB-57A Canberra
- F-4C Phantom II
- PB4Y-2G, BuNo 59876 - (the US Navy single tail version of the B-24)
- O'Leary, Michael, Thunder over Michigan, Air Classics, Nov 2003
- Mary Grady (October 10, 2004). "Michigan's Yankee Air Museum Destroyed In Fire". AVWeb.com. Retrieved 2011-05-12.
- "History of YAM". Michigan Aerospace Foundation. Retrieved 3 June 2013.
- Welch, Sherri (8 September 2010). "Yankee ingenuity: Air museum to reopen at Willow Run Oct. 9-10". Crain's Detroit Business. Retrieved 3 June 2013.
- "Project Announced To Rebuild Yankee Air Museum". WDIV. Archived from the original on 22 April 2005. Retrieved 2011-05-12.
- "Yankee Air Museum - Our Story". Yankee Air Museum. Retrieved 3 June 2013.
- Yankee Air Museum rebuilt - Officials, volunteers resurrect historic site ravaged in 2004 fire, by Steve Pardo, The Detroit News
- Spirits soar as Yankee Air Museum celebrates grand reopening six years after devastating fire by Tom Perkins, AnnArbor.com
- Bomey, Nathan (23 April 2013). "Former GM Willow Run plant may be demolished". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved 23 April 2013.
- "Save The Bomber Plant Website". SaveTheBomberPlant.org. Retrieved 27 September 2013.
- "Willow Run bomber plant preservationists get more time to reach goal". Retrieved 26 October 2013.
- "Yankee Air Museum signs deal for part of Willow Run Bomber Plant".
- "YPSILANTI TOWNSHIP: RACER Trust reaches demolition, development agreements for Willow Run plant". The Ypsilanti Courier. Retrieved 7 September 2013.
- "Yankee Air Museum Visits Grosse Ile". Youtube.com. 2009-12-05. Retrieved 2013-12-27.
- Yankee Air Museum (n.d.). "Our Aircraft". Retrieved 12 May 2011.
- Yankee Air Museum (n.d.). "B17 Flying Fortress". Retrieved 12 May 2011.
- Yankee Air Museum (n.d.). "B-25D Mitchell". Retrieved 12 May 2011.
- Yankee Air Museum (n.d.). "C-47 Skytrain". Retrieved 12 May 2011.
- Michigan Aerospace Foundation (2011). "History of YAM". Retrieved 13 May 2011.