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.