The 464th BG Short Rounds
The initial requirements, specs and building of the B-24s
from Don Takes (464th, 778th, Navigator)
In Jan 1939, Gen. Hap Arnold challenged Ruben
Fleet's Consolidated Aircraft Corporation in San Diego to design a strategic bomber
that would "fly the skin off any rivals." It was intended to be superior to the
B-17 which was originally ordered in 1936. Specifications called for a speed of more
than 300 mph, a ceiling of 35,000 ft, an operating range of 3,000 miles, and a bomb
load of 8,000 pounds. By the end of the month, the company had preliminary specs
and a mockup of the B-24. Consolidated Model 31, a commercial seaplane, was the
basis of the design, with the B-24 wing and tail borrowed from the 31, which made its
first flight on May 5, 1939 but never reached production. The Davis wing was the design
of David R. Davis, a self taught aerodynamicist who patented his "Fluid Foil"
XB-24: On Dec 29, 1939, Consolidated's XB-24
bomber made its first flight. Flight test engineer Bill Chana was aboard a prototype
B-24 that was pushed to its limits during a flight off the San Diego coast. "We
were conducting dive tests in the XB-24. We started at about 28,000, and on one of
the dives it got a little away from Doug Kelly. We hit a top true airspeed of 465 mph
and about a 45 degree angle. Yeah, it got a little dusty in there."
YB-24: By the time of the first flight, the
USAAC had ordered 7 YB-24s and Great Britain and France had ordered others. The
YB's had the same engines as the XB but with pneumatic deicing boots on the leading
edge of the wing and tail.
B-24A: This was the designation for the
first 36 production models for the USAAC and 120 for a French purchasing mission.
France capitulated before delivery and the order was completed to British requirements.
The RAF called its new bomber the Liberator, designated LB-30A. Other versions were
called Liberator MK I, the true bomber version was labeled Liberator MK II.
XB-24B: This was the XB-24 modified to
add self sealing fuel tanks and armour and turbocharged R-1830-41 engines with oil
coolers in the sides of the front cowling resulting in the familiar oval shaped nacelles.
B-24C: These were 9 of the XB-24B designs
with added dorsal and tail turrets to supplement the original hand held guns in the
beam and nose.
B-24D: The first major production version
and first to be employed by the USAAC operationally had R-1830-43 engines. The
RAF models were the Liberator MK III and IIIA. The US Navy version was the PB4Y-1.
B-24E: The first production aircraft from the
Ford plant at Willow Run was similar to the D except for propellers and minor detail
changes. Consolidated and Douglas also built this version, some with R-1830-65 engines.
XB-24F: A single B-24D with an experimental
thermal deicing system.
B-24G: A version by North American with
the upper nose
B-24H: The nose turret version built by
Consolidated in Ft. Worth, Douglas in Tulsa and Ford in Willow Run.
B-24I: Listed in "Liberator",
no explanation, has to be an error.
B-24J: There were 6,678 built in all five production
lines, differing from the H in only minor details.
XB-24K: The single tail version intended to
be produced in large numbers as the B-24N.
B-24L: This version was similar to the D with the
tail turret replaced by two manually controlled 50 caliber machine guns. Consolidated
San Diego made 417, Ford made 1,250.
B-24M: The final production version had a
different tail turret than the J. San Diego built 916, Ford built 1,677.
XB-24N: This single tail prototype and 7
YB-24Ns were built before production ended on 31 March, 1945.
By the end of the war, 19,256 Liberators had been
built for the USAAC, US Navy, RAF, Royal Australian Air Force and South African
Air Force, more than any other US aircraft of all time.
XB-41: An experimental bomber escort version
of the B-24 with 1450 caliber machine guns converted for flight engineer training under
the designation AT-22, later called the TB-24.
C-87: A transport version of the B-24. The
USAAC received 26,125 passenger versions and 6 C-87As as sleepers. The RAF received
a small number of C-87's. Navy versions 'were designated RY-l, 2 and 3. The Confederate
Air Force flies a C-87 from Midland, TX.
C-109: A fuel tanker version of the B-24 carried
2,900 US Gal over the Himalayan hump to supply B-29's operating at forward bases
XF-7: Prototype of a reconnaissance version,
built in 1943, no bomb racks, extra fuel tanks, used in the Pacific. F-7A & B had different
Convair Model 39: An attempt to break into
the post-war transport market, it used the B-24 wings, powerplant and landing gear,
the single tail of the PB4Y-2 and a new fuselage to carry 45 passengers. The sole
prototype was evaluated by the Navy as the R2Y.
The All American: This B-24J was first
delivered to the USAAC and later transferred to the RAF. At war's end it was abandoned
in a bomber graveyard in Khanpur, India. In 1948 it was one of 36 B-24s restored by
the Indian Air Force and flown for 20 years, retired in 1968. In 1981, it was bought by
Doug Arnold of Blackbushe, England. Robert F. Collings of the Collings Foundation
in Stowe, MA bought it from an ad of Arnold's in 1984. After it was rescued from England,
over 90,000 hours and over $1,000,000 were required to disassemble and rebuild it
part by part. General Dynamics, Consolidated's successor, was a major sponsor.
Consolidated's Fort Worth Plant
Apr. 18, 1941, Fort Worth newspaper publisher
Amon G. Carter and Army Air Corps Maj. Gen. Hap Arnold break ground for the construction
of Consolidated Aircraft, Fort Worth. The $50 million plant officially opened a year later,
100 days ahead of schedule.
Apr. 24, 1942, The War Dept. approves expansion
of the 600 aircraft B-24 contract at the FW plant, with 800 additional bombers to be
assembled from components furnished by the Ford Motor
May 1942, The Army Air Corps accepts the
first B-24 bomber from Consolidated's FW plant, only a month after the facility officially
opened for business. By the end of the war in 1945, the plant had built 3,034 Liberators
and derivatives. San Diego had built 6,724.
March, 1943, Consolidated Aircraft and
Vultee Aircraft officially merge to form Consolidated Vultee Aircraft Corp., the company
that spawned the nickname Convair.
Jun 27, 1943, More than 32,000 people visited
the Fort Worth plant during its first open house. Each employee was allowed to bring
in only one family member, no children. Visitors toured the assembly area and viewed
interiors of the B-24 bomber and C-87 cargo aircraft.
Jan. 29, 1944, Combined production of B-24s
and C-87s at Convair's FW plant exceeds 200 a
Dec. 30, 1944, The last Fort Worth built B-24J,
No.1796 is accepted by the Army Air Corps. The plane was painted with the signatures
of thousands of plant workers who contributed to the program.
Liberator, General Dynamic's book issued at the Fiftieth Anniversary of the
First Flight; The Complete Encyclopedia of World Aircraft by Barnes & Noble;
Jane's "Encyclopedia of Aviation", and monthly newsletters from the Fort Worth
Plant - now Lockheed-Martin.
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