23 May 2007

Liberator Vs. Flying Fortress-

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.


Jason said...

So....where are the photos?! :)

My granddad flew B-24s in WWII for the Navy - sub hunting. Quite a plane!

Teller said...

I second that, lets see these photos! Way to understate the fate that would "befall" you were you to have come face-to-face with a bomb bay door. The man who founded the FBO I used to work for flew a few thousand hours in the Liberator...the stories he had of that thing are incredible. I can't imagine what those R-1830 Twin Wasp P&Ws must have sounded like on the takeoff roll. Nothing beats a round engine!

Greybeard said...

Lemme see, what'd I do with those?
Once I find 'em I'll have another task to learn... how to use this damn scanner!
I'll work on it guys. In the meantime, don't hold your breath!

And teller- one of the things that surprised me about the B24/B17 was that they didn't use the same engine...
the -17 used a single-row Wright Cyclone R1820, as I recall.
Totally different sound!