The heavy metal was out in force at this year’s Thunder Over Michigan airshow, organized by the Yankee Air Museum and held at the historic Willow Run airport in Ypsilanti, MI. The theme for the 2015 show was “Bombertown, USA”, no doubt in celebration of the preservation of the airport’s special role in WWII B-24 Liberator production. The show, known widely for arranging incredible gatherings of rare warbirds, certainly lived up to the theme by bringing 10 bombers (plus YAM’s own B-17 and B-25, which only flew to give rides during the show) together on one ramp. But the show is not known for static gatherings; organizer Kevin Walsh and his staff usually find a way to get a lot of the aircraft in the skies together. In this case, simultaneous race track patterns of bomber flybys and a grand finale formation flyover!
The 2015 edition of Thunder Over Michigan was also special because the typically warbird-only show hosted the US Navy’s Blue Angels for the third time ever. After a disappointing showing by the USAF Thunderbirds in 2014, it was nice to see the Blues fly along the proper showline. The USAF F-16 Fighting Falcon demo team “Viper East” also performed at the show for the first time in several years.
Despite the unusual modern military presence, which always irritates warbird purists but draws in a ton of very important money for the museum at the same time, the warbirds were still the heart of the show. Aside from the bombers, there was a segment featuring a WWII fighter formation of three P-51 Mustangs, an F4U (FG-1D) Corsair, and a Spitfire. Rick Volker flew an impressively nimble Harvard routine, and the unique WWII battle reenactments, held twice daily, had simulated strafing runs and dogfights overhead. On the static ramp, the museum even pulled out some of its bomber display aircraft including a B-57 Canberra and PB4Y-2 Privateer, which was parked next to her flying sister ship for an incredibly rare sight.
It was a very good weekend, but there were some concerns in the crowd about the sky high ticket prices along with the confusing and overly oppressive entry restrictions. However, the Blue Angels drew in enough people to pack the place each day in less than ideal weather. Hopefully the experience was pleasant enough that the spectators will return next year to support the museum and these incredible aircraft!