B-17 Yankee Lady Has a New Home

The B-17G known as Yankee Lady is heading for pastures new in the coming weeks. (image by Richard Mallory Allnutt)
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A few weeks ago, we published an interview with Kevin Walsh, President and CEO of the Michigan Flight Museum describing the challenges of rebranding the organization from its longtime former identity as the Yankee Air Museum. Naturally, given how difficult change can be for some people to accept, there was a certain level of hair-pulling and gnashing of teeth amongst small elements of the public. But it is a simple fact that every business, even a non-profit museum, must continually adapt to the evolving needs of its clientele or it will soon wither and die.

However, the Michigan Flight Museum is striving not just to avoid that fate, but also to thrive, having created a methodical, multi-year plan of action which they are already five years into executing. Given the sponsorships, partnerships and programs they have been able to secure, their efforts seem to be working too.

Such dramatic transition also forces significant self-reflection as well, of course, and that can sometimes precipitate even more difficult reevaluations. Indeed the museum’s leadership has confronted just such an inflection point, which has led them to the agonizing decision to part with one of their most cherished possessions, their airworthy B-17 Flying Fortress, which Kevin Walsh revealed with the following statement:

“For almost four decades, the Museum has been honored and privileged to be the restorer and caretaker of an important, valuable piece of American aviation history: the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress known as Yankee Lady. However, after evaluating the future of the aircraft and its role in our organization, the Board of Directors unanimously has determined that the Museum is no longer the best option for continuing as its caretaker.

Furthermore, it was determined by the Board of Directors that now is the time to entrust this beautiful aircraft’s future to another caretaker. Yankee Lady has become a significant generator of revenue for the museum, to the extent that we have developed an unrealistic dependency on it. Simply put, interruptions in its revenue stream due to the aircraft’s inability to participate in our flight program have become hardships for the Museum. In other words, we don’t feel the museum can ensure her flying future to the extent we feel is appropriate for an historical artifact of her importance and rarity.

This was a difficult and emotional decision for all concerned, but it was deemed appropriate to ensure the future well-being of the aircraft and museum. The Yankee Lady is headed to a new home and new owner who has the resources to ensure her preservation and flyability for decades to come.”

While this is a sad day, in many respects, it must also be a liberating one for the museum too. The funds the sale raises will help them to grow and to continue flying their other aircraft, while also mitigating the enormous risks (both financial and otherwise) which operating such a complex and demanding aircraft as the B-17 far from home involves. Yes, there will be more gnashing of teeth from some, but it is an easy guarantee that not one of those doom-sayers has ever had the immense responsibility of running a flying museum – nor the financial obligations concomitant with operating a precious jewel such as Yankee Lady.

We are their caretakers, not their owners, as the oft-repeated saying about vintage military aircraft goes… and so the torch passes on to another caretaker. We wish them well.


Author’s Note: While we do know the identity of the new owner, and it is likely already known to a good number of others, we are not presently at liberty to say more. The aircraft should be in good hands though, and is expected to continue flying for the foreseeable future.

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Richard Mallory Allnutt's aviation passion ignited at the 1974 Farnborough Airshow. Raised in 1970s Britain, he was immersed in WWII aviation lore. Moving to Washington DC, he frequented the Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum, meeting aviation legends.

After grad school, Richard worked for Lockheed-Martin but stayed devoted to aviation, volunteering at museums and honing his photography skills. In 2013, he became the founding editor of Warbirds News, now Vintage Aviation News. With around 800 articles written, he focuses on supporting grassroots aviation groups.

Richard values the connections made in the aviation community and is proud to help grow Vintage Aviation News.

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About Richard Mallory Allnutt (Chief Editor) 1060 Articles
Richard Mallory Allnutt's aviation passion ignited at the 1974 Farnborough Airshow. Raised in 1970s Britain, he was immersed in WWII aviation lore. Moving to Washington DC, he frequented the Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum, meeting aviation legends. After grad school, Richard worked for Lockheed-Martin but stayed devoted to aviation, volunteering at museums and honing his photography skills. In 2013, he became the founding editor of Warbirds News, now Vintage Aviation News. With around 800 articles written, he focuses on supporting grassroots aviation groups. Richard values the connections made in the aviation community and is proud to help grow Vintage Aviation News.

11 Comments

  1. This is a terrible (very sad) loss to our community that has contributed so much ($$$$) to the care and restoration of this beautiful piece of history. And on top of this you change the name of the museum! Yes, there will be much rhetoric and opinions on this decision. I am sure none of it positive. I hope you realize what you have done and am sure this will backfire on you. This is to benefit and save money! We will see.

    • Ditto! This plane was paid for with donations
      from the local community and it was an iconic part of this community. The only way this could possibly make any sense is if the money was going to be used to purchase a B-24. Apparently that isn’t the case.

  2. I flew copilot on her when she was a fire bomber back in the summer of 1969 when it was based at aviation specialties at Falcon field airport in Mesa Arizona. Had a pretty exciting summer started the fire season in Alamagordo ,New Mexico and ended up in Boise, Idaho to see where she ends up I’d like to go, get a flight in her one of these days time for old times sake. I have a bunch of photos I could share with the new owner if they are interested. If anyone learns where she is headed, let me know.

    • Warbird history was only the beginning of a life of service for many. As you are no doubt aware, air tank battles can have their adrenaline rush as well. The best part is the guys on the ground waved in appreciation and didn’t shoot back !!

      We had air support from Hawkins & Powers out of Greybull WY in the early 70’s in the Tetons. Early air tanker history in development and operations deserves to be an important an interesting aspect of the aircraft’s second life !!

    • Hi Mark,

      My grandfather flew Yankee Lady as well when she was with Aviation Specialties. I have all of his flight logs showing the flights, purpose and dates on several B-17’s back then. I would be interested in seeing some of the photos you have from your time back in 69. I have one of Yankee Lady on my office wall when she was in flight to Hawaii for the movie Tora, Tora, Tora.

    • I was watching the movie “Always” just before reading your comments. What an honor to hear from the brave pilot who flew our Yankee Lady as a firebomber. Touched my heart ~ Mary Ann Bittner of Belleville, Michigan

  3. So…the museum flagship makes so much money that it has to go? Talk about cutting off one’s nose to spite the face. Walsh is a textbook bean counter.

    • How many museums have you directer? How may B-17 have you operated? My guess is zero.

      • I could ask the same of you. Forgive me for my candor, but I do not see how this benefits the “rebranding” of the museum. To me, the Yankee Lady remains the finest example of a restored, operable B-17 in the air today. I have nothing but the greatest respect for the crew, operators, and volunteers of the Yankee Air Museum who have so diligently kept her in the air for so many years. My attitude toward this decision stems from the sadness I feel for them, that they will no longer be able to continue their stellar work on this magnificent airplane.

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