Bombers Soar At Thunder Over Michigan 2015

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B-29 Superfortress, Avro Lancaster, and B-17 Flying Fortress - Thunder Over Michigan 2015

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!

P-51 Mustangs in Formation - Thunder Over Michigan 2015de Havilland Mosquito - Thunder Over Michigan 2015

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.

WWII Battle Reenactment - Thunder Over Michigan 2015PB4Y-2 Privateers - Thunder Over Michigan 2015

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!

B-29 Superfortress and WWII Bombers - Thunder Over Michigan 2015USAF F-16 Fighting Falcon and P-51 Mustang Heritage Flight - Thunder Over Michigan 2015
WWII Bomber Static Displays - Thunder Over Michigan 2015WWII Bomber Static Displays - Thunder Over Michigan 2015
SNJ - Thunder Over Michigan 2015US Navy Blue Angels - Thunder Over Michigan 2015
V for Victory - Thunder Over Michigan 2015Blue Angel Autographs - Thunder Over Michigan 2015

2015 Wings Of Freedom Tour Brings WWII Warbirds To The Pacific Northwest

posted in: Event Recap, Warbirds | 1

Collings Foundation Wings of Freedom Tour 2015 - B-24 Liberator 'Witchcraft'

Established in 1979, the Collings Foundation’s mission is to organize and support “living history” events that enable Americans to learn more about their heritage through direct participation. In 1989, the foundation began to focus on the Wings of Freedom Tour, which began with their fully restored Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress “Nine-O-Nine” and Consolidated B-24J Liberator that started as “The Dragon And His Tail” before recently being repainted as “Witchcraft.” In recent years, their North American TP-51C Mustang “Betty Jane” and B-25 Mitchell “Tondelayo” have joined in the tour, though rarely are all four together. This year is the exception, as Tondelayo joined the other three already on tour in the Pacific Northwest.

While it’s thrilling to see these aircraft fly, the Collings Foundation ups the experience further by allowing paid ground tours and flights at each of their destinations. Appreciation for a World War II bomber can be found within the small, metal interiors where one can walk from nose to tail taking in the environment that was home and office to young aircrews during the war. Walking around the outside, one can see the blistering armament that served as the aircraft’s only self-defense against determined enemy fighters. But to truly experience the aircraft and the heritage they represent, you have to get airborne.

Collings Foundation Wings of Freedom Tour - B-17 Flying Fortress 'Nine-O-Nine' and B-25 Mitchell 'Tondelayo' Collings Foundation Wings of Freedom Tour 2015 - B-24 Liberator 'Witchcraft'

A flight aboard the bombers costs $450 per person, and is well worth the investment. The crews take you through a safety briefing and allow you the opportunity to turn over the propellers on the engines to prepare for takeoff. Once inside, you can find decent seating in the waist and radio operators room with windows to watch startup and liftoff from. For aviation fans, the sound of those old radials turning over and roaring to life from inside is an exhilarating feeling all its own. Once in the air, all engines humming together, you can get up and tour the aircraft again, seeing local landmarks and terrain below from a perspective otherwise lost in commercial travel.

Collings Foundation Wings of Freedom Tour 2015 - B-17 Flying Fortress 'Nine-O-Nine' Ride Collings Foundation Wings of Freedom Tour 2015 - B-24 Liberator 'Witchcraft' Ride

However, the tour isn’t just for those aviation and history enthusiasts to enjoy and travel back in time with. Veterans of the war can take advantage of visiting these aircraft that hold sentimental connections to their past service and the people they knew during it. The quality restoration work done on each of the participating aircraft is best appreciated by those veterans that served aboard them and whose eyes and hands can best remember their look and feel. The same can be said for those who built the thousands of aircraft from stateside factories. For them, there could not be any better opportunity available today.

The chance to enjoy and learn from these aircraft is thanks to the force behind the Collings Foundation’s success and support: its volunteers. People of all walks of life have made grand commitments to the restoration and maintenance of these aircraft at their home and abroad, and it’s that spirit of involvement and investment that keep these symbols of history flying through the years to come. The air crews that command these aircraft from site to site are all volunteers with their own history to share, as well as those who man the booths and organize the event. When you visit the tour at a stop near you, take the time to thank them for their work and learn from them and others there.

Collings Foundation Wings of Freedom Tour 2015 - P-51 Mustang 'Betty Jane' Collings Foundation Wings of Freedom Tour 2015  B-25 Mitchell 'Tondelayo'

The Wings of Freedom Tour is an annual event, and while the crews are now beginning to make their way back across the nation, you can still find them at these upcoming locations:

  • Ft. Collins, CO – Jul 10-12
  • Garland, NE – Jul 13-15
  • Lincoln, NE – Jul 15-17
  • Omaha, NE – Jul 17-19
  • Mason City, IA – Jul 20-22
  • Waterloo, IA – Jul 22-24
  • West Chicago, IL – Jul 24-26
  • Griffith, IL – Jul 27-29
  • Waukegan, IL – Jul 29-31
  • Chicago, IL – Jul 31-Aug 2
  • Valparaiso, IN – Aug 3-5
  • Kalamazoo, MI – Aug 5-7
  • Flint, MI – Aug 7-9
  • Port Clinton, MI – Aug 10-12
  • Cleveland , OH – Aug 12-14
  • Akron-Canton, OH – Aug 14-16
  • Jamestown, NY – Aug 17-19
  • Penn Yan, NY – Aug 19-21
  • Poughkeepsie, NY – Aug 21-23
  • Hazelton, PA – Aug 24-26
  • Wall Township, NJ – Aug 26-31
  • Trenton, NJ – Aug 31-Sept 2
  • Cape May, NJ – Sept 4-7
  • Worcester, MA – Sept 25-27

*Schedule as of July 11, 2015.

Collings Foundation Wings of Freedom Tour 2015 - B-17 Flying Fortress 'Nine-O-Nine' Collings Foundation Wings of Freedom Tour 2015 - B-24 Liberator 'Witchcraft'

Thank you to the Collings Foundation, Hunter Cheney, and Ryan Keough for allowing us to visit the tour and hop a flight on the B-17 and B-24 from one stop to the next. The experience was wonderful as always!

Fan Submissions: Theme Week 20 – Bombers

posted in: Community, Military, Warbirds | 0

Thank you to all of our fans for submitting to our Bomber theme week! After 20 weeks, we once again had another record number of submissions! We posted some of our favorite Bomber photos throughout the week, and asked you to share some of your own shots to be featured right here on our blog. Check out just a sampling of the submissions in the slideshow below!

With airshow season just about upon us at AirshowStuff, this next week will be the final theme week, and we want theme weeks to go out with a bang! So this week’s theme is Best of the Best! We want to see the best airshow photo you’ve ever taken! All week long we’ll be posting our very best photos and want to see yours, too! If you would like to contribute to our next theme week, go to our Facebook page, like the page, and upload your photos to our wall!

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