2015 Event Review

Thunder Over Michigan Air Show, August 29-30, 2015
Location: Willow Run Airport, Ypsilanti, MI
Admission: $40 adults, kids 15 and under free, advance purchase discounts
Parking: $20 per vehicle, advance purchase discounts
Value: Good
Rating out of 10: 9
 
MCAS Yuma base commander
Main headliners where the Blue Angles
The Yankee Air Museum puts on an annual warbird extravaganza and every year it features a collection of airplanes based on a particular subject. Usually this will be a specific aircraft, but the theme for the 2015 Thunder Over Michigan Air Show was "Bombertown, USA." This allowed the organizers to assemble a very broad selection of bombers ranging from light attack aircraft to the heaviest of strategic bombers from World War II. In addition, a large group of fighters was also in attendance. Jet noise was provided by the USAF's F-16 Viper Demo Team and the Navy's Blue Angels. Michael Goulian was the sole purely aerobatic performer.

Admissions and ticketing opened at 8AM, although the gates didn't open until 9AM. An optional photo tour allowed entry at 7AM to give enthusiasts an opportunity to photograph the aircraft on static display without the normal crowds. The flightline was largely devoted to chalets, although there was a section at airshow left open to the public. The beer garden provided some shade and access to the fenceline somewhat closer to show center, but there was a cover charge to get in. There was an exclusive tented area at airshow right devoted to the Photo Tour photographers. In addition to the aircraft, the airshow always attracts a large number of military re-enactors who stage WWII ground battles, one in the morning and another in the afternoon. Similarly to the airshow, the military vehicles feature a yearly theme. This year's show brought together the largest assembly of WWII American half-tracks in the world, with 18 in attendance. The battle re-enactments feature combined air and ground performances, with the aircraft making several low-level passes. Allied air support for the morning battle was provided by the Spitfire MkIX and Mosquito. It was a real treat to see the Mosquito down on the deck banking hard and showing off its topside. The afternoon battle featured a Junkers Ju 52 threatening an Allied ground column, being attacked by a P-51 and ended with a dogfight between the Mustang and a Focke-Wulf Fw 190.

The formal flying schedule began shortly after noon, with a fighter formation flyover composed of three Mustangs, a Corsair and Spitfire. They were then joined by the bombers, and the aircraft split into two racetracks, one circling behind the crowd, the other out in front. This meant that there were often multiple aircraft passing by in front of the crowd at the same time. The bomber flight featured a wide variety of aircraft. Light bombers included the de Havilland Mosquito, the Lockheed PV-2 Harpoon "ATTU Warrior", and a beautiful Douglas A-26B Invader "Silver Dragon". The medium bomber flight consisted of four North American B-25 Mitchells: "Briefing Time", "HOT GEN!", "SUPER RABBIT" and "Yankee Warrior". The Avro Lancaster, Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress "Memphis Belle", Consolidated PB4Y-2 Privateer and Boeing B-29 Superfortress "FIFI" teamed up to represent the heavy strategic bombers. Strangely, the Consolidated B-24 Liberator (of which over 8,500 were built at Willow Run at the monstrous Ford Willow Run bomber plant) was not represented. After a final formation flyover by the "heavies" it was time for the F-16 Viper East Demo to take to the sky. Captain Craig "Rocket" Baker put on a tremendous demonstration of the Fighting Falcon's tactical capabilities. After his demo flight he joined up with Vlado Lenoch, flying the P-51D Mustang "Baby Duck", for the Heritage Flight. Vlado later flew a very nice solo aerobatic performance. Other warbird aerobatic displays included Rick Volker in the Harvard and an FG-1D Corsair demonstration. But for a true demonstration of power aerobatics, Michael Goulian can't be beat, and he put on a jaw-dropping performance in his Extra 330. The afternoon's flying concluded with the headline act, the US Navy and Marine Corps' Blue Angels, starting off with Fat Albert's incredible eight-minute, envelope-pushing demonstration of the C-130's flight characteristics and finishing with the six Blue Angels F/A-18 Hornets tearing up the sky.
The warbird static lineup included a variety of trainers from primary (PT-17 Stearman, N3N Yellow Peril) through basic (BT-13 Valiant) to advanced (AT-6 Texan, Beech AT-11 Kansan). There was also a second PB4Y Privateer on static display. Owned by the museum, it is being restored and perhaps we'll see it fly at a future show. Modern military aircraft included a USAF Boeing KC-135T Stratotanker, of the 127th Wing/171st ARS based at nearby Selfridge ANGB, and a rarely-seen German Luftwaffe Transall C-160, from Lufttransportgeschwader 63 based in Schleswig-Holstein. Although not part of the airshow's formal flying program, the Army Aviation Heritage Foundation's UH-1 Hueys and AH-1 Cobra were constantly taking off and landing as airshow attendees booked rides.
Announcer Rob Reider did a great job of keeping the weekend's audience of almost 90,000 informed and entertained. We would like to thank Herb Gillen for arranging our media access and all of the show's performers, staff, sponsors and volunteers for making this show such a success
Performers included:

Blue Angels
F-16 Viper East Tactical Demonstration
Heritage Flight: P-51D Mustang "Baby Duck", F-16C Fighting Falcon

Vlado Lenoch, P-51D Mustang "Baby Duck" Aerobatics

Rick Volker, Harvard Mk. 4 "Harvard Extreme" Aerobatics

Michael Goulian, Extra 330 Aerobatics

Vought FG-1D Corsair Aerobatics

Warbirds:

Avro Lancaster B Mk X

Beech AT-11 Kansan

Bell UH-1H Iroquois "Huey"

Bell AH-1F Cobra

Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress "Yankee Lady"

Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress "Memphis Belle"

Boeing B-29 Superfortress "FIFI"

Boeing PT-17 Stearman

Cessna L-19 Bird Dog

Cessna O-2A Skymaster

Consolidated PB4Y-2 Privateer

de Havilland DH.98 Mosquito FB Mk 26

Douglas A-26B Invader "Silver Dragon"

Douglas C-47D Skytrain "Yankee Doodle Dandy"

Focke-Wulf Fw 190A-8 W├╝rger

Junkers Ju 52

Lockheed PV-2 Harpoon "ATTU Warrior"

Naval Aircraft Factory N3N Yellow Peril

North American AT-6 Texans, SNJs, Harvard

North American B-25J Mitchell "Briefing Time"

North American B-25J Mitchell "HOT GEN!"

North American B-25J Mitchell "SUPER RABBIT"

North American B-25D Mitchell "Yankee Warrior"

North American P-51B Mustang "OLD CROW"

North American P-51D Mustang "Ain't Misbehavin'"

North American P-51D Mustang "Baby Duck"

North American P-51D Mustang "GENTLEMAN JIM"

North American P-51D Mustang "PETIE 2nd"

North American P-51C Mustang "TUSKEGEE Airmen"

Piper L-4 Grasshopper

Stinson L-5 Sentinel

Supermarine Spitfire LF Mk IXe

Vought F4U-1C Corsair

Vought FG-1D Corsair

Vultee BT-13 Valiant

Military Aircraft on static display:

Boeing KC-135T Stratotanker, 127th Wing/171st ARS Selfridge ANGB

Transall C-160, German Luftwaffe LTG 63

Report and photography by Norman A. Graf & additional images by Steve Bigg for The Aviation Magazine

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