In my previous post I asked if you could guess which of the two bombers I decided to ride in.
I chose the Liberator.
My thought process was pretty much in line with Teller's comment...
There were over 10,000 B24's built during WWII, yet "The Dragon and his Tail" was advertised as the only example of the type flying... the others presumably cut up for their scrap value.
There was some talk of a B24 being used as a firefighting water-bomber in South America, but knowing there are a handful of B17's making the fly-in circuit, I figured I might get a chance to fly in one of them at some future date.
I arrived at 0900 and received my briefing from the Captain. There would be three of us aboard... Captain, Co-Pilot, and yours truly. He led me to the crew compartment at the rear of the airplane, showed me my seat, and gave me my seat-belt brief. I was to remain seated and belted until he indicated it was safe to move around by sounding a bell and turning on an indicator light. At that point I was free to move around the airplane at will until he sounded the alarm prior to landing, when I was to return to my seat and buckle up.
He showed me the "catwalk" that extends over the bomb bay- an approximately 12' long, six-inch wide walkway with cable handholds. He cautioned me to be careful while crossing the catwalk... "The Bomb Bay doors won't hold your weight if you fall on them."
The takeoff was wonderful-
Four big Pratt & Whitneys singing at the top of their lungs.
Then the Bell rang and light came on. I unbuckled and moved to the tail-gunners post and sat there, looking out the plexiglass windscreen, imagining I was firing a .50 Cal machine gun at menacing Messerschmitt 109's.
I took a deep breath and negotiated the catwalk, knowing we were at 2500' AGL and a stumble could make life interesting for a few seconds. I stuck my head up into the hole that provided access to the cockpit, chatted with the crew, and viewed an instrument panel that with the exception of a few new radios, was mostly original equipment.
I carefully made my way back to the crew station in the waist and took a picture of the shadow of the B24 making it's way across the ground. From that vantage point there is a great view of the big rudders and the rear of the wing.
As I said, the flight lasted 75 minutes, so it ended too soon...
But I have pictures and memories that will last the rest of my life.