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Posted on Sat, Apr 6, 2013 : 2:51 p.m.

Public gets hands-on experience with vintage aircraft Saturday at Willow Run Airport

By Lisa Carolin

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Detail work on the B-17 bomber was what Anthony Benedict of Lathrop Village spent his time doing at Willow Run Airport's Bomber Buffing Saturday.

Lisa Carolin I For

Vintage aircraft aficionados had their dedication tested today when they were asked to bring aluminum polish, rags and elbow grease in exchange for getting hands-on privileges with the Yankee lady, a B-17 bomber, as well as a B-25 bomber. Both aircraft were built and used in the 1940s.

The occasion was the annual Bomber Buffing at Willow Run Airport in Ypsilanti Township. More than 100 people of all ages visited the airport for the event.

The Calkins family came from Midland on the last stop of their spring break travels.

"Randy loves WWII and Ryan loves the military," said Sharon Calkins, the mother and wife.

Randy, 13, and Ryan, 11 worked on both of the planes.

"I like seeing history in person," said Ryan.

For some, it was not their first experience around the planes. Larry Arnett lived through that time in history and served in WWII. He's a member of the Yankee Air Force, which owns and operates the Yankee Air Museum, and he served as a cryptographer in France during WWII.

"I've been up in both the B-17 and the B-25," said Arnett. "They're beautiful and shiny on the outside, but on the inside they're ugly with the machine gun mounts and other war equipment."

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Brothers Randy, left, and Ryan Calkins of Midland spent the end of their spring break sprucing up aircraft at Saturday's Bomber Buffing event at Willow Run Airport.

Lisa Carolin I For

Anthony Benedict, from Lathrop Village, said that it was a thrill for him to work on the detail of the B-17 bomb. His brother-in-law Steve Romund, from Shelby Township, is a lifetime fan of airplanes.

"I grew up building models and love all the WWII planes," said Romund. "The B-17 is a marvelous piece of equipment."

"Our mission is to inform the public about aviation and aviation history, and this helps us prepare for the flying season," said Julie Osborne, conservator at Willow Run Airport. "People get excited to touch historic bombers."

The B-17 and B-25 bombers at Willow Run Airport are two of three aircraft that have full-flying capabilities. There also are a dozen static aircraft.

"The B-17 has been under construction since last October for a complete re-haul," said Osborne. "They just put the wheels on Thursday."

Osborne says after today's buffing is done, final maintenance checks will be performed on both planes.

The first air show of the year is May 15 in Grand Rapids and will feature the B-25. The B-17 will be available for rides at Willow Run Airport that day as well. It's a 45-minute flight that loops around the Detroit River. Osborne calls flying in the bomber, "a once in a lifetime opportunity."



Sun, Apr 7, 2013 : 1:32 a.m.

I was here for this one as I have been the last six or so years. I had a great time again and thanks Yankee for the pizza! I look forward to seeing those beautiful birds in the air.

Real Life

Sun, Apr 7, 2013 : 12:52 a.m.

It's Lathup Village, not "Lathrop". Your writers can't google?

Homeland Conspiracy

Sat, Apr 6, 2013 : 11:08 p.m.

Sorry I had to miss this...So many thing going on all around the area this weekend.... High class problems