Thunder Over Michigan
Thunder Over Michigan is one of my favourite annual aviation events. Located at the Willow Run Airport (KYIP) in Ypsilanti, Michigan and organized by the Yankee Air Museum, their first show was in 1999 and our first visit was in 2003. Thunder has evolved a lot over the years to include military demonstration teams and civilian aerobatic acts but it still thrills its visitors as one of the top warbird shows in North America.
Every year the show organizers pick a theme that highlights an historical anniversary or specific aircraft which has lead to incredible shows featuring masses of B-25 Mitchells, B-17 Flying Fortresses or P-51 Mustangs, to name a few. Other times a single aircraft has made the show special, such as the F-4D Phantom, the F-100F Super Sabre or the J2F-6 Duck. Organizers are always looking for ways to improve and many of these changes have positively impacted photographers, like the new showline that parallels Runway 05R/23L or the Saturday night engine runs.
There was no show in 2020 so I spent some time reflecting on the history of the event at Checksix - the military aviation online magazine.
"The British are Coming" was the theme in 2022, but unfortunately a lot of variables combined to keep most of the British aircraft elsewhere. Luckily, the show still featured the Viper Demo Team each morning and the Blue Angels every afternoon. Vintage jets displays of a DH.115 Vampire T.Mk55 and F-100F Super Sabre were fantastic, and the warbirds that did show up flew plenty of the inside racetrack patterns that make TOM such a hit with photographers. The night engine run was back for the fourth time and featured a modern participant for the first time, an Ohio ANG F-16C, along with an Me-109 and a P-40M. As always it was great to be back among friends at Willow Run Airport.
For a more detailed report on this event please visit Checksix https://www.checksix-online.eu/review/airshows/thunder-over-michigan-2022/
Thunder Over Michigan was back in 2021 after having to cancel the event in 2020 due to the global health crisis. The show utilized a drive-in style format with a relaxed attitude allowing visitors to wander the grounds and enjoy a static display. Flying programs were held in the morning and afternoon, with the US Navy Blue Angels closing the morning segment while the USAF Thunderbirds headlined in the afternoon. There were other jet demonstrations from the A-10C Thunderbolt II Demonstration Team and the F-35A Lightning II Demonstration Team as well as the EA-18G Growler Legacy Team. The representatives from the Air Force joined with a P-51D Mustang for a Heritage Flight while the Growler flew formation with an F4U-4 Corsair as the Legacy Flight.
Thunder is famous for its warbirds and this year was no exception as the theme was 'Mitchell Madness' that featured fourteen North American B-25 Mitchells. The Mitchells were lined up very impressively and took to the air in each segment of the daily air show. The other warbird act involved Yankee Air Museum's B-17G 'Yankee Lady' flying with three P-51D Mustangs, honouring the special bond between the large bombers and their 'little friends'. Three warbirds were also part of the now traditional Saturday Night Engine Run: P-51D 'Mad Max', F4U-4 'Korean War Hero' and B-25D 'Rosie's Reply'.
For a more detailed review of this amazing event please visit Checksix - the military aviation online magazine and check out my article https://www.checksix-online.eu/review/airshows/thunder-over-michigan-2021/
In 2019 we went 'Corsair Crazy' as Thunder was able to present a gathering of eleven Corsairs, one of the largest gatherings of this type of aircraft since the Korean War. By the time we arrived on Sunday August 4, the show had already enjoyed two successful days with beautiful weather and a night engine run featuring a B-25 and a Corsair under a clear starry sky. Even though we were only able to attend for one day, it was great to be among friends as we walked the static ramp in the morning and watched the flying program from the photo area. The afternoon weather cooperated in a way that I had previously never experienced, as storms seemed to develop all around the field but the airport remained in a bowl of sunshine and blue skies. The Corsairs were joined by a nice collection of P-51 Mustangs, a few B-25 Mitchells and the F-16 Viper Demo Team for what was arguably the best Thunder Over Michigan in recent years.
As always there was a wonderful collection of aircraft on display in 2018, and they had beautiful weather during their arrival on Friday August 24. Unfortunately, the weather was miserable for the rest of the weekend and neither day featured a full flying program. The best part of the show was the introduction of a Night Engine Run on Saturday night featuring the Tennessee Museum of Aviation P-47D Thunderbolt 'Hun Hunter XVI' and the Yankee Air Museum's B-17 'Yankee Lady' and C-47 'Hairless Joe'. Although it also rained during portions of this special event, especially while the spotlight was on the B-17, those in attendance left very satisfied and it should become a regular part of weekend activities going forward.