Yankee Air Museum

The Yankee Air Museum is located at the historic Willow Run airport west of Detroit.   This is a great location for an aircraft museum, because it's the same place that Ford used during world war two when they turned their manufacturing expertise at the disposal of the American war effort.   It took almost two years to set up the factory in what was then the world's largest building, but once underway they were turning out a complete B-24 Liberator in a little under an hour, and by the end of the war they had manufactured 8,800 of the bombers here.

I made the trip over from Chicago to the Yankee Air Museum twice, timing it on both occasions to coincide with their annual air show.   It's an excellent way to kill two birds with one stone, and there's plenty of time left over before and after the show to browse the static displays of aircraft which have flown in for the show, and then walk around the museum.

The word "museum" is a slight exaggeration when describing this place, it's really one of those open-air displays which happen when amateur enthusiasm for preserving historic aircraft runs headlong into the difficulties of raising money for facilities.   Although they do have one hangar, I suspect that it's reserved for the museum's airworthy B-17 bomber, "Yankee Lady", which you can fly in during the show - for a price.   The rest of the aircraft have to sit outside on tiny concrete pads sunk into the grass display area, freezing through the nasty Detroit winters and boiling through the summers.   It's a special shame since the aircraft here are very interesting - some large aircraft like a DC-6, a B-52 Stratofortress, a four-engined Argosy transport and a rare PB4Y Privateer, a close relative of the B-24s which were manufactured here.   Surprisingly, a number of the aircraft are on permanent loan from the USAF museum at Dayton, Ohio - you might imagine that they would only lend aircraft to places which have buildings in which to house them.

Apart from the big birds, the Yankee Air Museum has a really first-rate collection of cold war jet fighters, including representatives of the "century series" such as the F-101 Voodoo, F-102 Delta Dagger and F-105 Thunderchief.   These aircraft represent the fullest flowering of American creativity at a time when technology was advancing by leaps and bounds.   Since then improvements in speed and payload have been mostly gradual and evolutionary, in contrast to the giant strides made in these areas during the 1950s and early 1960s.   The very well executed display boards standing in front of each aircraft give a very good introduction to the types of aircraft which are here, as well as the history of the particular specimens at the museum.