Yankee Air Museum at Willow Run Reopens With New Safety Rules for Visitors

The venue known for its air shows and flying adventures faces a $600,000 deficit due to COVID-19 closure, and no air show this year.

Editor’s note: this story has been updated with information about the cancellation of the Thunder Over MIchigan air show. — PB

The Yankee Air Museum at Willow Run Airport opened its doors to the public on June 30, 2020. The museum will be open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and Sundays from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm.

Like many cultural and historical institutions in Metro Detroit, the museum faces a big budget deficit due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In March, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive order to close museums and other public venues to limit the spread of the 2019 coronavirus. 

“We can weather this and emerge okay, providing there’s not a second wave that closes us down again.” — Dave Callanan, Yankee Air Museum

Yankee Air Museum Outreach Director Dave Callanan says revenues quickly dried up.

“We’re expecting to post around a $600,000 loss for the year,” he says, noting that the museum started the year with very healthy finances.

Besides admission sales, the museum makes money by offering flying adventures on its many historic aircraft, including the Yankee Lady, a vintage B-17 “Flying Fortress.” Callanan says officials hope to resume flights shortly after the museum re-opens.

Click on the player above to hear how the Yankee Air Museum is adapting to the pandemic.

The annual Thunder Over Michigan Air Show is usually a big draw in terms of spectators and revenue for the museum. But not this year. It’s been canceled.

Event director Kevin Walsh says organizers could not find a socially responsible way to make the show work in the middle of a global pandemic.

“We take the health, safety and well-being of the 700-plus volunteers, the hundreds of air crews, and the tens of thousands of fans very seriously,” Walsh says.

The show, which was scheduled for Aug. 29 and 30, would have featured the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels stunt-flying jets. Dave Callanan says show organizers had come up with one idea they hoped would work.

Pat Batcheller
Pat Batcheller

“We would like to do a drive-in theater-style show,” he says. “People would literally drive their cars in, remain at their cars, perhaps bring a lawn chair and refreshments.”

Callanan says there would have been no tents at the show, no ground displays and no premium seating. There would have been physical distancing, just as there is inside the museum.

“We are not going to be doing temperature checks. But we will be asking our customers to maintain social distancing and wash their hands frequently.”

“We will also require people to wear masks,” he says. “If they don’t have a mask, we will have them available.”

Callanan says museum staff with have a daily sign-in sheet and will be asked a series of questions about their health and any contacts they may have had. 

“We are not going to be doing temperature checks,” he says. “But we will be asking our customers and our team members to maintain social distancing and remind them to wash their hands frequently.”

Hand sanitizing stations will be available throughout the museum and its exhibit hall, which Callanan says offers plenty of room for physical distancing.

“We can have roughly 30 people in a meeting room with six feet of separation,” he says.

Trusted, accurate, up-to-date

WDET is here to keep you informed on essential information, news and resources related to COVID-19.

This is a stressful, insecure time for many. So it’s more important than ever for you, our listeners and readers, who are able to donate to keep supporting WDET’s mission. Please make a gift today.

Donate today »


  • Pat Batcheller is a host and Senior News Editor for 101.9 WDET, presenting local news, traffic and weather updates during Morning Edition. He is an amateur musician.