Yankee Air Museum Tries to Raise $6 Million to Purchase Former B-24 Bomber Factory

Bombers as far as the eye can see. Willow Run assembly line in 1944.
Aircorps Art Dec 2019

B-24 Bombers, as far as the eye can see.  The Willow Run assembly line in 1944.
B-24 Bombers, as far as the eye can see. The Willow Run assembly line in 1944.
The Yankee Air Museum of Belleville, Michigan has just announced a $6 million campaign to purchase and undertake the necessary renovation costs to move the museum into a portion of the former General Motors Willow Run Powertrain Plant that originally was a factory, built by Henry Ford to manufacture B-24 Liberator bombers for World War II.

If successful, the Yankee Air Museum would move from its current location on the east side of Willow Run Airport, which was originally built as a launching field for the bomber factory’s output, to the former bomber plant, which on the airport’s western boundary. “This is a wonderful opportunity for the Yankee Air Museum, its members, supporters and the community as a whole to establish a new home in the building that was at the core of our Arsenal of Democracy.” said Dennis Norton, the founder and first president of Yankee Air Museum and president of the Michigan Aerospace Foundation. “To relocate where men and women worked around the clock to produce the aircraft that helped preserve our nation’s freedom will bring history to life in a unique and powerful way.”

Mr. Norton presented the Yankee Air Museum’s plans to the Charter Township of Ypsilanti Board of Trustees on Monday evening. The Yankee Air Museum has until August 1, 2013, to secure the needed funding, a deadline mutually agreed-upon by Yankee Air Museum and the building’s owner, the RACER Trust, the entity created to dispose of General Motors’ Properties shed during its 2009 bankruptcy reorganization.

The bomber plant is roughly 175,000 square feet of the gargantuan, nearly 5-million-square-foot Willow Run Powertrain Plant facility, which General Motors closed in 2010. The massive bay doors, 50-foot ceilings and wood floors remain from the original bomber plant and as such is an ideal space for the museums collection to reside. The Yankee Air Museum proposes purchasing a total of 840,000 square feet from RACER. The remaining space would include parking for 700 vehicles.

The Yankee Air Museum, founded in 1981, is a private, non-profit museum and educational resource dedicated to the aviation history of southeastern Michigan. It sponsors the annual “Thunder Over Michigan” air show at Willow Run. The Museum currently is housed in a 47,000-square-foot facility that was dedicated in October 2010. This facility replaced the original Yankee Air Museum headquarters, which was destroyed by fire in 2004. As we recently reported, the Museum was planning to scrap several of their planes, a Douglas DC-6B, a Grumman A-6A Intruder and an Armstrong Whitworth Argosy AW.650 due to lack of space to house them and the excessive costs involved in moving the large planes over any meaningful distance. One hopes that the museum hasn’t let the planes be chopped up prematurely, at least until they know for sure whether space will be an issue for the organization going forward.

The museum will be hosting a reception for supporters and the news media from 5:30 to 8:00PM Thursday, May 16 in Hangar One, where the Museum’s flying B-17 is located, just across the Willow Run Airport and within sight of the historic bomber plant that is the object of their desires.

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