willow run airport

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The U.S. Department of Transportation is giving the Wayne County Airport Authority a $12 million federal grant to renovate a runway at the Willow Run Airport, according to Congressmen John Dingell and John Conyers, Jr. and Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow.

This is on top of the $9 million in federal funding awarded to the airport in July. This additional $12 million will go towards the repaving of runway 05R/23L.

Alana Holland / Michigan Radio

The old GM Willow Run assembly plant, the same plant where Rosie the Riveter once worked, is in danger of being demolished. That is, unless the Yankee Air Museum can raise $4.5 million dollars in the next 15 days, as Tracy Samilton reported.

We also interviewed Dennis Norton, founder of the Yankee Air Museum, and Ray Hunter, the current Chair of the Museum, about their efforts to save the plant on Stateside.

The museum hopes to use the old plant to house its collection of exhibits and historic planes.

One of these planes is the B-17G "Yankee Lady," a bomber developed for the United States Air Force during World War II. The Yankee Lady is one of the few remaining models of the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bombers that remain flyable today.

Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton and Alana Holland got to experience first hand this historic plane in action. View the slideshow above for a look at the Yankee Lady in flight.

Alana Holland / Michigan Radio

With the touch of a button, a massive two-story-tall bay door opens slowly, as an insistent alarm sounds, to reveal part of the former Willow Run bomber plant near Ypsilanti, Michigan. A heavy waft of must and dampness rushes out from the dark interior.

Once, scores of B-24 bombers exited these bay doors, on their way to aid the American war effort. 

"It works better than my garage door back home," says Grant Trigger with a grin, as the more than 60-year-old doors lift.

Trigger is the Michigan Cleanup Manager for RACER Trust, which handles the vacant GM Willow Run Assembly Plant, along with scores of other properties abandoned by the automaker as part of its bankruptcy reorganization in 2009. 

The factory began its life as a Ford Motor Company World War II factory, famous for being the place where Rosie the Riveter worked. GM later bought the plant and converted it to make automobiles.

But soon it will be demolished, unless a modest museum can raise more than $4.5 million in the next 15 days.

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VAN BUREN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - The Yankee Air Museum is kicking off a $6 million campaign to make its home at a former facility that built B-24 bombers during World War II.

Museum officials announced this week an effort to purchase and renovate part of the former Willow Run powertrain plant. The museum is housed at Willow Run Airport, near Ypsilanti in Wayne County's Van Buren Township.

Its original headquarters was destroyed by fire in 2004.

Dennis Norton, the founder and president of the Yankee Air Museum, has presented plans to Ypsilanti Township officials. The museum says it has until Aug. 1 to secure funding, and would buy the site from the Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response Trust.

Ford Motor Co. built the plant for B-24 production. It later was taken over by General Motors.