About Yankee Air Museum

Willow Run Airport was built by the Ford Motor Company in 1941 to serve as an airfield for their B-24 Bomber Plant. This was the first aircraft manufacturing plant to use Ford's automotive mass production techniques, a leading technological innovation of the time. Ford Motor Company built 8,685 B-24s from 1942 until the end of World War II. At its peak, the Willow Run plant employed over 42,000 people and produced one B-24 every 59 minutes. The last bomber to roll off the assembly line was named the "Henry Ford." When the war was over the airport became the hub for passenger flights and air freight in the Detroit Metropolitan area.

In 1981, a group of enthusiastic people, adopting the name Yankee Air Force, shared the desire to preserve the facts and glamour of southeastern Michigan's aviation history. They began to lay plans to research, restore, and preserve the all but forgotten history of Willow Run Airport. Their initial goal was to aquire one of the original U.S. Army Air Forces hangars and restore it to its original condition. With the help of Wayne County, the owners of the airport, this first goal was accomplished and the Yankee Air Museum was born. The YAM now has three divisions. They are Saginaw Valley and Wurtsmith Divisions in Michigan and the Northeast Division in New Jersey.

Their second goal, to obtain a B-24 built at Willow Run, has proven to be a much tougher project. Over 18.000 Liberators were built and just 11 survive today, of which only 4 were built at Willow Run. In 1987, a PB4Y-2 Privateer, the Navy's single-tailed version of the B-24, was donated to the Museum for static display.

Since 1981 the Yankee Air Museum has acquired and returned to flying status five World War II aircraft. The first plane was acquired in 1981, a Douglas C-47 World War II transport which was built in 1945. The "Yankee Doodle Dandy" is the YAM's world class award-winning flagship. The B-17G "Flying Fortress" which was used in the movie "Tora!Tora!Tora!" was purchased in 1986. The "Yankee Lady" underwent extensive restoration and was returned to flying status in 1995. The B-25D "Mitchell", a medium-duty 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. Two Taylorcraft L-2 liason aircraft are operated by divisions of the Yankee Air Museum located in Saginaw, Michigan and New Jersey. These aircraft are flown and displayed at numerous airshows from May through September. They are the pride of the Yankee Air Museum. When visiting the hangar, you will see skilled mechanics and restoration crews actively involved in the process of bringing these national treasures back to life.On October 9, 2004, the Yankee Air Museum at Willow Run Airport suffered a terrible fire that destroyed the historic hangar housing the museum. Through the heroic efforts of a few members, the beautifully restored B-17, C-47 and B-25 aircraft were moved out of the building before the fire reached them, thus saving the heart of the collection. In addition, all the historic aircraft on display outside of the main building were untouched by the fire. The museum did, however, lose virtually all of the tooling, equipment and spare parts for all of the aircraft plus all of the office and display fixtures and equipment totaling well over $1,000,000 in replacement value. While thousands of irreplaceable artifacts, photos and books were also lost in the fire, the Volunteers at the museum are thankful that the aircraft collection remains largely intact. Only a small number of non-flyable aircraft that were in restoration inside the hanger were lost.

The Yankee Air Museum members, staff and volunteers have already begun the recovery and rebuilding process. The aircraft, which continued their flight schedules after the fire, have been moved into a hangar leased by Willow Run Airport. Our volunteers and staff now reside in the new collections and exhibits building at 47884 D St., Belleville, Michigan. It is their intention, under the leadership of Kevin Walsh, Executive Director of the Yankee Air Museum, to continue the great work that was begun in 1981 by a small group of visionaries who were dedicated to preserving this important piece of aviation and Southeastern Michigan history.