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The Story of the Yankee Air Museum begins in 1941, when Willow Run Airport was built by Ford Motor Company to serve as an airfield for their nearby B-24 bomber factory. This factory was the first aircraft manufacturing complex to use Ford’s automotive mass production technique, an innovation deemed necessary by the impending crisis in Europe. Using these techniques and with the financial support of the military, who paid top dollar for military aircraft, Ford Motor Company built 8,685 B-24 Liberators from 1942 until the end of World War II. At its peak, the Willow Run facility employed over 42,000 people and produced one B-24 every 59 minutes. When the war was over, the airport became the hub for passenger flights and air freight in the Detroit Metropolitan area.In 2004, nearly everything the museum owned was destroyed in a fire, but volunteers and community members have donated money and time to rebuild the museum.

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  • The first plane was acquired in 1982, a Douglas C-47D Skytrain. The “Yankee Doodle Dandy” is a two engine transport which was built in 1945.
  • This fire on October 9, 2004, destroyed the historic hangar housing the Museum. Volunteers at the museum saved three of the historic planes from the fire and have worked to rebuild the museum in the past decade.
Since 1981, the Yankee Air Museum has acquired and returned several World War II aircraft to flying status. The first plane was acquired in 1982, a Douglas C-47D Skytrain. The “Yankee Doodle Dandy” is a two engine transport which was built in 1945. Rides on the C-47 are scheduled for the summer months. The B-17G Flying Fortress, a four engine heavy bomber which was used in the movies “Tora!Tora!Tora!” and “Closing The Ring”, was purchased in 1986. The “Yankee Lady” underwent extensive restoration and was returned to flying status in 1995. The B-25D Mitchell, a two engine medium bomber similar to the type used in Jimmy Doolittle’s raid on Tokyo, was acquired in 1987. The “Yankee Warrior” saw combat in World War II and is one of only two B-25Ds still flying today. The “Yankee Lady” and “Yankee Warrior” are flown and displayed at numerous air shows from May through September.

A new campaign has been launched to raise the funds to build the actual Museum and its exhibits within the Bomber Plant. The Bomber Plant was most recently the General Motors Powertrain Plant and is on the northwest side of Willow Run Airport. The additional space will allow the Museum to integrate STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) into its exhibits and programs to inspire young people to pursue education and career opportunities in those fields. The Bomber Plant location re-creates the original excitement of the Yankee Air Museum by bringing the flyable aircraft, exhibits, restoration and educational programs back to a single site. Various pieces of the Museum will move into the Bomber Plant as it is renovated and it is estimated the new Museum will be fully opened by 2017.

Today the Yankee Air Museum events and educational programs are available for the public to experience and enjoy. The flyable aircraft are available for rides so people can re-live an important part of American and Michigan history. Public relations, membership and volunteer programs actively reach out into the community to create awareness of the Museum and invite interested people to become involved. The THUNDER OVER MICHIGAN™ Air Show at Willow Run Airport is one of the premier annual aviation events in the country. A new Vietnam War exhibit features a restored F-4 Phantom and UH-1 “Huey” helicopter. The Yankee Air Museum continues in its mission of “Honoring aviation history and its participants through a living, flying museum.”