The museum began in 1981 with the goal of not just restoring the great warplanes of the past but flying them. They bought the B-17 in 1986 for $250,000 from a company in Arizona that used it to fight forest fires and apply pesticides, and then spent nine painstaking years restoring it, with all the work done by volunteers and paid for with donations.
We're over Dexter now, and from the waist gunner's window I can see blue tarps on roofs damaged by the March tornado. We bank left over the A&W, head south down Parker Rd., and then bank left again on Scio Church back toward Ann Arbor. With the sun above and behind us, we can see the plane's shadow racing across the farm fields below us.
Norton invited me and ten others up in order to spread the word about the Yankee Air Museum. In 2004, its hangar at Willow Run burned to the ground. Members were able to get the planes out in time, but they lost the rest of the museum's contents, worth over $1 million. They reopened the museum this year in a newly restored building but are still looking to build their own hangar for the planes and a permanent exhibition hall for an estimated cost of $7 million. They aim to raise the money from donations--and from folks who pay $450 each for the thrill of flying in a piece of history.