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Twin Celebrations At Willow Run Airport

Oct 30, 2014

There were a couple of big celebrations Thursday at Willow Run Airport.  The airport re-dedicated its re-built main runway, and the Yankee Air Museum closed on the purchase of part of the former bomber plant.

After a ceremonial ribbon-cutting, the Yankee Air Museum's B-17G bomber "Yankee Lady" made the inaugural take-off and landing on the runway.

Airport Director Chris Mullin says the runway replaces the original strip, built in 1940. He expects the re-built runway to last 35-40 years.

"It's an asset, it's a resource," Mullin says, "and hopefully it's something that's going to continue to help with the resurgence of the local economy."

Re-construction of runway 5R/23L cost $45 million.  90 percent of that was covered by the Federal Aviation Administration, with the rest coming from the Michigan Officer of Aeronautics,

After that ceremony, the crowd moved inside a hangar for the official closing on the museum's purchase of part of the former Willow Run bomber plant for its new home.

Museum Executive Director Kevin Walsh also announced that once the museum moves into the building its name will change to The National Museum of Aviation and Technology.  He says the new name better reflects the museum's status as a national treasure, along with its educational mission.

"We have an obligation as a museum to help kids get excited about STEM careers," Walsh says, "and that's reflected in the name."

And phase two of the "Save the Bomber Plant" fundraising campaign is underway.

The first phase raised the money needed to purchase and preserve the structure.  Phase two aims to raise $5 million to prepare the inside of the building for a summer 2017 opening.