About the Campaign

Together, we’ve written another amazing chapter in the history of Willow Run. But your support is still needed...

DECEMBER, 2015: I want to personally thank each of you who has helped in some way this first year. We succeeded with the construction we wanted to accomplish in 2015 and look forward to the 2016 restoration activities we have planned… but we still need your help to make our shared vision a reality! – Dennis Norton, Founder, Yankee Air Museum

We’ve saved Rosie’s factory, now let’s fill it with history!

If these walls could talk… they’d tell a story. Of American know-how. Of social change. Of a country that pulled together, to get a tough job done. It’s a story to inspire future generations. Let’s tell it at Willow Run!

Click here to download the complete December 2015 “Save The Bomber Plant” Campaign and Construction Status Update. (Or read the summary below.)

The Campaign’s Mission

The purpose of the Save The Willow Run Bomber Plant Campaign, launched in May 2013, is to mobilize the resources needed to preserve and renovate roughly 144,000 square feet of the 5 million square foot former Willow Run Bomber Plant, to eventually become the new home of the Yankee Air Museum.

The Yankee Air Museum, based on the eastern edge of Willow Run Airport since 1981, houses aviation- and history-related exhibits and programs, and preserves and maintains a small fleet of WWII-era flyable aircraft, including the majestic Yankee Lady B-17. Yankee has a collection of static aircraft on display, and hosts the popular Thunder Over Michigan Air Show every August.

Campaign History

In 2010, Yankee Air Museum Founder Dennis Norton met with GM executives to propose the possibility of the Museum storing its WWII-era flyable B-17 bomber in the old Bomber Plant. Unfortunately, GM had already discarded the Bomber Plant during bankruptcy proceedings. The plant was now owned by the RACER Trust, who was responsible for disposing of GM properties. GM set up a meeting with Yankee and the RACER Trust, at which Dennis took the idea a step further by suggesting the Yankee Air Museum become the owner of a small portion of the Bomber Plant, to save this important piece of local and national history, and eventually move the museum into the building. He was told that it would not be possible because RACER was trying to sell the building. But in 2012, when it became apparent that no one wanted to purchase the Bomber Plant because it was too old, big, and difficult to repurpose, RACER made the decision to get behind Yankee’s project, and offered to let the Yankee Air Museum buy a portion of the plant… if we could prove that we had the ability to raise the funds necessary to eventually restore and use the building. We did that through our tremendously popular “Save The Bomber Plant” fundraising campaign, and on October 30, 2014 Yankee Air Museum closed on the purchase of 144,000 sq ft of the old Willow Run Bomber Plant along with 17 acres of land, while the remainder of the Plant was demolished.

A Portion of Willow Run Saved from Demolition: Restoration Begins

The portion of the historic Bomber Plant that Yankee was able to save and purchase was the iconic “Roll-out Hangar” at the eastern end of the plant, where the finished B-24 Liberator bombers rolled off the Bomber Plant assembly line and onto the runways of adjacent Willow Run Airport for gun and compass testing, and their maiden flight. Restoration plans were already well underway at the time of the purchase, and work began on December 16, 2014. We have now completed the first year of construction/renovation/restoration of our portion of the historic Willow Run Bomber Plant. Total funds spent to date — approximately $4,000,000 — cover surveying, planning, architecture, engineering, structural steel enhancement, analysis, plumbing, demolition, clean up, power washing, walls, a new hangar door, repairs, and temporary electrical and lighting. Many other small jobs were done during this time as well, along with future planning for 2016 renovations and beyond.

Fundraising Continues: Goals for the Coming Year and Opportunities to Help

Fund Raising has begun in earnest for the next phase of the project, bringing all the utilities back to the building. Our goal for the next six months is to raise an additional $6 million in cash and in-kind work by contractors.

We do need to line up significant in-kind/pro-bono contributions for the summer of 2016 in the following areas:

  • Roofing
  • Electrical
  • Painting
  • Plumbing
  • Underground contractors critically needed to bring in the necessary utilities
  • Concrete and asphalt companies critically needed to provide the new interior concrete floor and the exterior parking and drives

If you would like to be part of this fascinating and historical restoration project by stepping forward and helping with any of these pieces, please contact us by clicking here.

When completed, hopefully in 2018, the total restoration cost will be approximately $18 million. Not all of this is cash donations. Some is longer term pledges that will help fund future work inside along with operational costs going forward. A good portion of the total funding is and will be in the form of in-kind/pro-bono donations from contractors and suppliers. Besides the contractors mentioned above, all of whom provided some in-kind/pro-bono services, others who stepped forward to help us were Bidlack Creative, Inland Press, Adams Survey, RACER Trust, Ypsilanti Township, YCUA, Willow Run Airport, Wayne County Airport Authority, Verdeterre, Adamo, MCM and Devon Corporation. In addition to all of these generous and historically minded contractors, we have had almost 5,000 individual and corporate donors who have contributed badly needed funds to help purchase and “Save The Bomber Plant.”

Willow Run: A Proud Legacy Carried Forward into the Future… with Your Help!

We did something special here in Detroit, something that was done nowhere else in the world. We can look back on what happened at Willow Run with pride and a sense of accomplishment. We really did save the world and that is the history we want to preserve. Save The Bomber Plant and the Yankee Air Museum would like to personally thank each of you who has helped in some way this first year. We succeeded with the construction we wanted to accomplish this year and look forward to 2016 restoration activities. We have just kicked off another drive to fund the coming year of restoration. This Phase is estimated to cost $6 million. Please dig deep, and do what you can to help us preserve this important piece of our shared history! Besides our greatly appreciated cash donors, I know there are many companies out there who played a role in the original construction of this building and also played a role in the building of the B-24s at Willow Run.

A Storied Past, and a Bright Future

A new home for the Yankee Air Museum in the historic Willow Run Bomber Plant not only honors the site’s historic past, but will also create an exciting and fitting new chapter for Willow Run. The Museum would continue Willow Run’s legacy of breakthrough innovation, using the excitement of aviation, technology, and history to inspire future generations to pursue STEM education.

 

Together, we “saved” Willow Run… Now, let’s finish the job!

Thank you!
The Michigan Aerospace Foundation
The Yankee Air Museum
Campaign Co-chairmen Astronaut Jack Lousma and former GM Executive Bob Lutz