Friday, October 18, 2013

B-24J Walk-Around

As promised, here are the pics of the Collings Foundation B-24J Liberator bomber "Witchcraft".
18,482 B-24 Liberators were made during the war. This is the sole surviving flying J Model left in the world.
She carried a crew of eleven (as opposed to the B-17's ten), could cruise at 215mph, and had a range of 2,100 miles.
Henry Ford built a massive factory to build these at Willow Run, just outside Ypsilanti, MI. At the war's end, Ford just abandoned the pace, lock, stock and barrel. The plant's gone now but the airfield remains. I can't fly over or through it without imagining the B-24s that once covered the field.
Here's the powered chin turret with it's twin .50 machine guns. Below it is the window used by the bombardier when he was plotting the target and flying the aircraft on the bomb run.
The B-24 uses the Pratt & Whitney R-1830-35 or -41 turbosupercharged radial engines @ 1,200 hp. Below is a close-up of one of the turbosuperchargers.
Actor and great American James Stewart flew these over Germany during World War Two.
Not even any plexiglas between the waist gunner and the outside. Just a wind deflector. It got awfully cold up at 35,000 feet, which is why they wore electrically-heated flight suits (and why they died when those suits shorted out, or when their oxygen mask quit working.)
The powered tail gun position. Much more sophisticated than the tail station on the B-17.
The massive twin tail that made the Liberator so distinctive.
The Liberator had two connected bomb bays instead of one and the doors rolled up and down vertically instead of hinging open like on the B-17.
Simply beautiful. It's such a shame that we didn't save more of them.
Taxiing out. Destination Tokyo or Berlin.

7 comments:

  1. I got to fly in her when she was in our neck of the woods. It was a phenomenal experience!

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  2. Read about the Ploesti Raid sometime if you haven't already. Those -24's were beasts, able to soak up an incredible amount of damage and still get crews home or to a safe ditching. During the workup for the raid, in the deserts of N. Africa, crew chiefs would routinely find the paint on the prop tips and belly were scoured off and sand was jammed up in the bomb bay doors...come to find out, they were flying so low that they sometimes rammed into taller dunes. One pilot, after his run through the Ploesti gauntlet, found himself missing several engines and either a jammed or malfunctioning rudder. He was able to fly "straight" by jamming the rudder fully in the opposite direction and sorta side-slipping through the air (with his copilot standing on the rudder pedals at his station), and managed to make it back to his base several hours after the rest of the survivors...the flight engineer would crawl up under the pilot every so often and massage his leg to keep it from cramping. When they landed, everyone got out. The pilot walked about ten feet before his legs gave out. But his -24 got them back to base.

    The best thing about that bird, though? My grandfather was in the 8th Air Corps, stationed in Italy. He was a propeller tech on -24's. So they're even more special to me.

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  3. My favorite of the US WWII bombers. Has a squat, muscular look that the B-17 and the B-25 didn't have.

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  4. Gotta love 'em. A wonderful plane from an era when giants walked the earth.

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  5. Every time I see one of those I think of the "Lady Be Good".

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  6. Excellent post/pictures!

    While nowhere near Ypsilanti's production numbers, the AAF Plant #4 in Fort Worth, built in 1942, assembled about 3000 of the craft in a two year period.

    Later, the same "mile long bomber plant" produced B-32s, B36s, B58s (Major Henry J. Deutschendorf set B58 speed records. His son, who graduated from Ft. Worth's Arlington Heights HS and later became an aviator, sold a lot of records), F-111s, F16s, and now JSF/F-35 Lightning IIs.

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