The B-24 was a heavy bomber aircraft used extensively during WWII. The B-24 had a high cruise speed, long range, and was able to carry large payloads. The Liberator was deployed by every branch of the US armed forces and allied nations during the war. The planes were used for bombing campaigns in in Western Europe and across the Pacific islands. The B-24 is considered the most produced America military aircraft.
In 1938, Consolidated Aircraft Corporation was commissioned to produce B-17 Flying Fortress bombers for the United States army Air Corps. Consolidated Aircraft president, Rueben Fleet, believed his company could build a better bomber. The design illustrated a bomber with higher speed and longer range.
One of the key differences with the B-24 was the shoulder mounted Davis wing. The design enabled to the increased range and airspeed. The wingspan exceeded that of the B-17 by six feet, the wing area was quite a bit lower. Reports indicate that the wing design made the aircraft somewhat unwieldy and more susceptible to ice formation.
The fuselage could be described as “boxy”. The central bomb bays were split lengthwise, with a narrow catwalk in between. The catwalk measured only nine inches wide. The B-24 required a crew of seven to ten. A pilot and co-pilot handled controls along with a crewman that would serve as a navigator or engineer. The bombardier and radio operator remained close the cockpit. Gunners operated .30 or .50 caliber machine guns located on the sides and tail of the aircraft, armament varied between B-24 models.
To ensure that the B-24 bombers were ready for the war effort, 5 facilities were used for production. During the height or production, a B-24 was produced every 63 minutes. Reports from the 1944 claim that pilots and aircrew would sleep near the facility, awaiting completion of their plane. The Willow Run location produced the greatest amount of B-24s. Over ten variations of the B-24 were manufactured.
Video: Building the B-24
The B-24D was the first mass-produced variation. This aircraft was flown primarily in 1943-1945 over the Pacific Ocean. It was used in multiple bombing campaigns on Axis-controlled island chains.
Length: 67 feet 2 inches
Height: 18 feet
Wingspan: 110 feet
Empty weight: 36,500 pounds
Maximum takeoff weight: 65,000 pounds
Speed: 290 mph
Range: 1,800 nautical miles
Engine quantity: 4
Engine type: Pratt & Whitney R-1836-65 Twin Wasp, 12,000 hp