Thunder Over Michigan air show soaring into Ypsilanti this weekend
Courtesy Wayne Vannice
The ability to lift off like a helicopter and fly backward in midair is what makes the British Aerospace Sea Harrier FA2 an aircraft that’s literally one of a kind.
The Sea Harrier performing at the Thunder Over Michigan Air Show this weekend at Willow Run Airport is not just the only privately owned Harrier in the world but also the only one that can still fly, said air show director Kevin Walsh.
Art Nails, a retired and decorated Marine Corps pilot, purchased the Sea Harrier in 2005 and spent nearly two years restoring the aircraft to flying condition.
“They put a lot of time and energy into it,” Walsh said. “After he purchased it, he had it shipped overseas”
Walsh said the aircraft is famous for its service during the Falklands War.
“This will be the first time the Sea Harrier will ever be seen in Michigan,” Walsh said.
The Sea Harrier isn’t the only aircraft being prepared and readied for the show spanning over both Saturday and Sunday. Walsh said the show will feature more than 40 aircraft that flew in from different parts of the country.
The Boeing B-29 Superfortress was the first “heavy bomber” built for the United States Army Air Forces. It was technologically advanced for its time and the first one flew Dec. 30, 1942.
The B-29 is most known for the August 1945 missions that flew over Hiroshima and Nagasaki that led to the end of World War II.
The B-29 was retired in the 1960s and about 25 remain in the world but the one being featured at the airshow is the only one that can still fly.
Walsh said just about all of the aircraft participating in the show have flown in and are being prepped. Considering the age of the aircraft, Walsh said this alone is remarkable because none of them had to be shipped in.
Courtesy Wayne Vannice
"Everything we have coming in is flying in," he said. "Nothing is trucked in. They've all been restored to flying condition. Some of them are extremely old."
The B-17, which is the centerpiece of the Yankee Air Museum, required a nearly 10-year restoration process.
"They (aircraft) require significant ongoing maintenance," Walsh said. "It's a labor of love."
Some of the P-51 Mustang aircraft participating in the show took between five and 10 years for them to be restored to flying status. Nearly a dozen will be participating in the show.
"The P-51 is most famous for escorting our bombers into deep parts of Germany in WWII," Walsh said. "... They're considered the aircraft that won the war. They're significant."
Nearly 3,000 war re-enactors have begun to descend upon Ypsilanti for a battle in which U.S. and German troops will square off in authentic armor and historically accurate dress as the P-51 Mustangs fly overhead.
"It's a long, tedious process but in the end, it gives a product that isn't seen anywhere else," Walsh said.
Show organizers are estimating between 40,000 and 45,000 people will attend the show over the course of Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $25 per adult, and children 15 years and younger are free. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Yankee Air Museum.