Yankee Air Museum Fire

Yankee Air Museum: 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. The ground was broken for a new museum building in April 2007.

In 2009, the museum purchased a building from the Michigan Institute of Aviation and Technology (MIAT), on D Street to the east of the airfield, intending it as the new home of the museum collection.

In the summer of 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).

Yankee Air Museum Belleville Mi

I went to the Yankee Air Museum years ago, a year or two before the fire at the other location.  It’s taking them a while to recover but they are moving ahead, and this location is worth a visit in the meantime before they move in the next couple of years into part of the Willow Run B-24 plant.

I’d call it small to mid-size, worth an hour or so visit.  There are restored and semi-restored planes inside, including an F-4, an F-100 painted in Thunderbirds colors, and an F-84 that will be in similar colors shortly.  There’s a section of B-24 fuselage with a Rosie the Riveter display, some smaller military and civilian planes, and lots of artifacts.

Outside you’ll find a few planes right near the museum, a B-52, and some corporate jets close to the runway, about 1/4 mile away.  All will be inside at the new location, as will the odd white building across the way from the museum that looks out of place on an airport (it was a training building in WW2, and is now storage and meeting space.)

The staff were all friendly and generally very knowledgeable.  There’s a gift shop with lots of books, toys, clothes, etc.  The museum makes for a nice introduction to aviation for kids, and an interesting visit for adults.

We recently became members of the Yankee Air Museum and were invited to a new member orientation and a behind-the-scenes tour.  We saw the displays open to the public as well as some of the staff-only areas where they sort, catalog, restore, and store donated items from uniforms to letters to photographs to military artifacts, etc.  There is a lot of work being done by volunteers to help the museum continue to improve.  You can actually purchase a unique experience of a flight on the Yankee Air Museum’s B-17, B-25, or C-47.  We had a great time and are looking forward to the annual Thunder Over Michigan Air Show that they sponsor later this year.  There are many other programs including speakers by veterans, authors, topic experts, etc.  There are also volunteer opportunities if you want to get up close and personal with old aircraft or help with processing materials that they have received.

Wurtsmith Air Museum is open Fri – Sun (11:00 AM – 3:00 PM).

Hotels near Wurtsmith Air Museum:

  • (3.86 mi) AmericInn by Wyndham Oscoda Near AuSable River
  • (4.34 mi) Oscoda KOA
  • (4.33 mi) Blue Horizon Court
  • (3.19 mi) Lakewood Shores Golf Resort
  • (1.88 mi) Northern Traveler Motel

Yankee Air Museum Michigan

The coolest thing about this museum is the fact that they offer rides in a couple of vintage WW2 bombers – a B-25 Mitchell and a B-17 Flying Fortress.  Rides will set you back about $400 for a 45-minute experience, with 30 minutes being air time.  Talk about a once-in-a-lifetime experience!  Maybe when I have the discretionary income or if you are reading this and want to give me the best birthday present ever…..

The museum itself is sadly not much to see.  Apparently, they had a fire a few years back and lost a major part of their collection of artifacts.  They are still recovering from the fire but there is still a fair amount to see so it may be worth stopping in if you are in the area.

The people running the museum are passionate about their work there and will be happy to answer any questions you might have.   I admire their enthusiasm and drive.

Yankee Air Force 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 Save TheBomberPlant.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.

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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 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 the demolition of the Willow Run Assembly facility, with the exception of the portion that the Yankee Air Museum is campaigning to save, were well underway as of August 2014, with much of the building already demolished.

Yankee Air Museum Hangar Happenings

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 airpark.

We took 4 grandchildren who were shadowed by employees so they wouldn’t touch anything. When my 2-year-old walked up a loud aluminum ramp he was shouted at by personnel that ” NO RUNNING IN MUSEUM!”  For $44 we had the worst 10-minute tour ever. HUGE RIP OFF. Save big bucks and go to Chuck E Cheese or even a public park.  2-7-Year-olds even suggested renaming it the ” Just give me your money, BORING Museum ”  Total waste of time and money

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