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Posted on Fri, May 17, 2013 : 5:59 a.m.

Yankee Air Museum kicks off fundraising for Willow Run bomber plant purchase

By Chelsea Hoedl

B-17 WW2 Bomber.jpg

The B-17 World War 2 Bomber, which is part of Yankee Air Museum's collection.

Chelsea Hoedl |

The Yankee Air Museum Thursday night launched a $5 million fundraising campaign that it hopes will end in saving a portion of the historic Willow Run Bomber Plant from the wrecking ball.

The museum, which suffered a devastating fire at its original location in 2004, hopes to acquire and renovate approximately 150,000 square feet of the World War II-era factory, which was later the GM Powertrain facility. The bomber plant manufactured B-24 Liberator bombers during World War II.

Revitalizing Automotive Communities Environmental Response (RACER), current owner of the property, has agreed to give Yankee Air Museum, now located at Willow Run Airport, and the Michigan Aerospace Foundation until August first to come up with the $8 million necessary to purchase the land and begin renovations. Thursday evening’s event was held to jump start a three month intensive fundraising program. RACER is a trust established to sell the property and other former General Motors facilities.

Michael Montgomery, fundraising consultant, said that about $5 million has already been raised through the Michigan Aerospace Foundation and about $1/2 million has already been raised by Yankee Air Museum. Roughly $3 million of funds already raised will go towards the final $8 million needed, leaving $5 million left to be raised Norton said.

“The campaign going forward from here has three primary elements,” Montgomery said. “A classic large gifts, large donors campaign that we’re going to look to for about 60% of the money. Then we’re going to look in the middle range to get about another 20%. ... Then there is the broad-based effort; the community support. Really tying in to the geographic communities of this region, but also the communities of interest: the aviation community, the history community. We’ll be looking to them for the last 20%.”

The museum and Michigan Aerospace Foundation also launched their fundraising website earlier Thursday.

Museum Chairman Ray Hunter announced the possibility of obtaining a Ford built B-24 to be displayed at the museum. The museum has been in contact with the National Museum of the United States Air Force regarding the possible acquisition, but no final arrangement has been made.

Speakers discussed the importance of obtaining the Willow Run Powertrain Plant and what it would do for both the museum and the community.

“What’s it going to do for us? We’ll have access to the airport for a flyable aircraft. Everybody’s going to be under one roof, and we’ll have a true museum that’s once again open to the public,” Hunter said. “It’s a historic building that is worth saving and for local folks, we would have the capacity to do a convention with over 1,000 people.”

MAF President Dennis Norton said the project will have educational benefits for the community and the renovation and a potential increase in tourist traffic could create jobs.

Speakers asked those attending to help in any way they can. Those interested in making a contribution can visit the website.



Thu, May 23, 2013 : 3:17 p.m.

The actual cost of the part of the building (175,000sq ft) and 19+ acres is only $175K. The big number $8m is required to separate the part that Yankee wants from the rest of the plant. RACER is not a blood sucking organization, they have been quite helpful and have suggested many sources of potential funding.


Sat, May 18, 2013 : 1:38 a.m.

This is such a great group- and this is basically preserving history -- its really a shame that a small portion of the Willow Run Bomber Plant can't be donated or leased at a lesser cost rather than the 8 million asking price (the actual price -- this campaign is only for 5M so I assume they must have some type of monies already collected or donated or underwritten)... That much money for this type of group is just blood-sucking by RACER and far far far over-priced for that corner of Willow Run....


Fri, May 17, 2013 : 7:09 p.m.

This is a great group of people who do a lot for the area. Thunder over Michigan is Aug 10th and 11th. Get discounted tickets at Donate to save the bomber plant at:


Fri, May 17, 2013 : 2:53 p.m.

I wished we had more air shows. Fun family style events. Too bad the Feds can't help out more, this year they canceled many of the few air shows they usually have. As for donating $, I'm not so sure. Could just travel to near by Ontario and check out one of the air shows over there. In fact a few planes from the Yankee Air Museum will be at some of the shows. St Thomas June 29-30th is one of the shows.


Sat, May 18, 2013 : 1:39 a.m.

The air shows are the least important aspect of this important historical group -- it is true that the Sequester has completely decimated what could have been this year....


Fri, May 17, 2013 : 3:05 p.m.

Paul its more than a Museum and Planes, my children had first hand interaction with some of the Tuskeegee Airmen at this facility! Its so much more than money!~

Dirty Mouth

Fri, May 17, 2013 : 1:33 p.m.

I love that B-17.

1982 Brew Crew

Fri, May 17, 2013 : 1:24 p.m.

Here is a link to a video shot at the facility.