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About the Willow Run Airport

“Will it run!”  This was the name given to Willow Run in 1941 when slow assembly lines and manpower shortage left bomber production future questionable.

Want more history?

Willow Run Airport was built during World War II where the United States Government contracted the Ford Motor Company to produced B-24 bombers.



After World War II, Bomber production stopped at the plant, and it was converted into a passenger terminal. Commercial passenger traffic was later moved from Detroit City Airport, making Willow Run Detroit’s primary airport.


In 1946 Warren Avis founded Avis Airlines Rent a Car Systems at Willow Run Airport. It was the first rental car operation at an airport location.



In 1947, the Federal Government sold the airport to the University of Michigan in for $1.00. Terms of the sale required that the university operate the airport as a research facility and the Michigan Aeronautical Research Center (later renamed Willow Run Research Center) was founded. For a time, the university housed part of its student population in the apartments previously used by plant workers.



In 1956 there were seven commercial passenger carriers operating out of Willow Run. Commercial service began to shift to the nearby Detroit Metro Airport during the late 1950s, and by 1967 it had ceased altogether. The April 1957 Official Airline Guide shows 68 weekday departures on Capital, 45 American, 23 Eastern, 17 Northwest, 14 United, 13 North Central, 13 TWA, 8 Delta, 5 Allegheny and 3 Mohawk. American’s only westward nonstops were to Chicago; United had a nonstop DC-7 to Los Angeles; come summer TWA would resume its weekly Constellation flight to Paris via Gander and Shannon (BOAC and Pan American flew out of DTW).



In 1977, the University of Michigan sold the airport to Wayne County for $1.00.


Other History:  The Yankee Air Museum opened on the airport grounds in 1981. A fire in October 2004 destroyed the museums building and most of its artifacts. The static display aircraft like the B-52 and other aircraft that were too large to be on display inside the hangar were undamaged. In 2005 the museum moved to the other side of the airport where they are rebuilding their displays and gathering more WWII memorabilia.

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