The Mission of the museum is to acquire, collect, restore, maintain, display and fly tactical classic jet aircraft and other aircraft of historic or unique character, and to emphasize the preservation and teaching of the history, maintenance, fabrication, and flying skills of these aircraft. World Heritage Air Museum will preserve these aircraft in flying condition whenever possible so as to allow the public the benefit of seeing these aircraft in flight. World Heritage Air Museum will also promote, attend, sponsor and host air shows, fly-ins and air racing.WHAM will regularly fly these aircraft and seek to build a museum at the airport that will become a prominent tourist draw. WHAM plans to have annual fundraising dinners, and local airshows. WHAM will also seek both donations and volunteers to promote both its mission and the renaissance of Detroit City Airport.
North American B-25J-25-NC, serial number 44-30733, nicknamed “Sandbar Mitchell” after it crashed on a Tanana River sandbar near Fairbanks, Alaska in June of 1969. With the help of skilled volunteers this B-25J will once again grace the skies over America in honor of the 340th Bomb Group. After spending 44 years resting on the Tanana River Sandbar, Sandbar Mitchell was recovered on July 5, 2013. She is now being restored in the Warbirds Of Glory Museum shop in Michigan.
The Yankee Air Museum was established to help preserve Southeast Michigan’s extraordinary aviation history. This history has many components – such as the 1941/1942 construction of the Willow Run Bomber Plant by the Ford Motor Company. Ford brought automotive assembly line techniques to aircraft production, building 8,685 B-24 Liberator bombers, a key part of the Allied arsenal in WWII. At its peak, the Bomber Plant employed over 42,000 people (about 40% of which were women, unprecedented for the times), producing up to one B-24 an hour.
A group of local aviation enthusiasts wanted to preserve this heritage and organized the Yankee Air Force in 1981 (the name evolved into the Yankee Air Museum in the early 1990’s.) They began planning to preserve the history of the Bomber Plant. Countless hours of work would go into this project, continuing to this day.
In late 1981, Museum personnel acquired a WWII era hangar on airport grounds; thousands of hours of work went into restoring the hangar into a useable facility. Subsequently, a series of flyable aircraft, static aircraft, and a wide range of aviation art, uniforms, instruments, and other artifacts were obtained and displayed. The Museum was formally dedicated in May, 1982.
The first flyable aircraft in the collection was a Douglas C-47 WWII era transport, obtained in 1982. Originally named Yankee Doodle Dandy, this aircraft was repainted/renamed in 2018 as Hairless Joe in a China-Burma-India WWII Theater paint scheme.
The next flyable purchased was a Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress. Named the Yankee Lady, it underwent nine years of restoration, beginning in 1986, and returning to flying status in 1995.
A North American B-25D Mitchell medium bomber was then acquired in 1987. The Yankee Warrior saw combat in World War II (eight missions over Italy) and is one of only two B-25Ds still flying today.
In 2014, an additional flyable was obtained – a Waco YMF-5C, recreating the barnstorming era in aviation.
These aircraft are flown and displayed at numerous air shows, and are the pride of the Museum. Rides can be purchased on these aircraft, helping people establish a connection to previous generations of aviators.
The Museum grew through the 1980’s and 1990’s. In October 2004, a devastating setback occurred – a fire that destroyed the hangar housing the museum. Through the heroic efforts of personnel on hand, the B-17 and C-47 were towed, pushed and pulled out of the building before the fire reached them, saving the heart of the collection. The B-25 had just landed and was not in the hangar; aircraft on display outside of the hangar were not damaged. The Museum however, lost virtually all of the aircraft tooling, equipment, spare parts, office and display fixtures, and all of the artifacts.
Museum members, staff and volunteers, as well as many others in the community swung into action (donations for rebuilding were received from all over the world). A key step was purchasing in 2009 a building from the Michigan Institute of Aviation and Technology. The Museum moved into this building in October 2010 (six years to the day of the fire), which has about 28,000 square feet of display area for aircraft and artifacts, and additional space for restoration work, offices, classrooms and a retail gift store.
Other actions taken included renovating a schoolhouse built by Henry Ford in 1938 into the David and Andrea Robertson Education Center (dedicated in June 2010), which holds the Research Library. Numerous aircraft have been added to the collection – a few examples include a Douglas A-4C Skyhawk, a North American F-100 Super Sabre, a Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bomber (salvaged from Lake Michigan) and a Bell AH-1J helicopter. The Michigan Aerospace Foundation (doing business as the Yankee Air Museum Foundation) was established in 2001 to coordinate fundraising efforts.
While the aircraft are very impressive, much more is done to promote aviation and history. The artifacts collection has been rebuilt, thanks to the generosity of our supporters. Numerous aviation speakers have appeared, including Steve Ritchie, the only Air Force pilot ace in Vietnam, Bob Mason, author of Chickenhawk, about helicopter pilots in Vietnam, and Alexander Jefferson, a Tuskegee Airman and P-51 pilot.
The Museum is the driving force behind the Thunder Over Michigan, one of the premier air shows in the US – the US Navy Blue Angels and the US Air Force Thunderbirds have made numerous appearances over the years. Each year, a wide range of historic aircraft are flown in for display.
The Museum also focuses on youth programming – STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Education is integrated into exhibits and programs to inspire young people to pursue education and career opportunities in those fields. Numerous programs are centered on Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and other youth organizations.
From day one, the Museum has worked towards ”educating individuals through the history of US military aviation, technology, and home-front efforts while inspiring ….pride in our national accomplishments.” To support this goal, the remaining 144,000 square feet of the Willow Run Bomber Plant was purchased in 2014. About 30,000 square feet of the renovated plant will be used for permanent hangar space for the flyable aircraft, with an expected construction completion date of December 31, 2019. The remaining area will house the Museum’s static aircraft, exhibits, and administrative offices; timing for this phase of the renovation is fund-raising dependent. When the move-in is completed, the Yankee Air Museum will have fulfilled one of its original goals – helping preserve this piece of Southeast Michigan’s aviation history.
If you are interested in supporting the Yankee Air Museum’s work, please contact Elisa Guyton, Associate Development Director, at 734-483-4030 ext. 227 or mail a donation to Yankee Air Museum, 47884 D Street, Belleville MI, 48111.