The B-24 Liberator, as successful as it was in its missions, has always remained in the shadow of the older B-17 Flying Fortress. Ironically, the B-24 had an overall greater military capability than the B-17 and the B-24 was produced in far greater numbers.
When Consolidated Aircraft won the contract to produce the B-24 for the United States Army Air Corps, they had less than a year to deliver the first plane. They met the terms of the contract with two days to spare. The XB-24, as it was known then, first rolled off the production line in the last days of 1939 and made its first flight out of Lindbergh Field. The following year, Consolidated incorporated several design adjustments for the B-24 before it was finally ready. Changes included modifying the nose, cockpit, and windscreen. Meanwhile, France had ordered 120 of the bombers for their air force, but in 1940, shortly before they received them, the country fell to the Germans. The B-24s designated for France were then purchased by Great Britain for the Royal Air Force. The RAF ordered an additional 164 of the bombers. These became the LB-30 Liberator Mk II. In all, more than 18,000 Liberators were produced.
The design of the B-24 differed from older generation bomber aircraft in that it had a twin tail and tricycle landing gear in place of a rear wheel, otherwise known as a tail dragger. Also different from the B-17 is the B-24’s larger wingspan and its ability to carry a heavier payload. Here are some interesting facts about the B-24:
Maximum speed: 303 miles per hour
Cruise speed: 175 mph
Range: 1,080 miles
Ceiling: 28,000 ft
Length: 66 ft 4 in
Wingspan: 110 ft 0 in
Height: 17 ft 11 in
Maximum weight: 56,000 lb
Empty weight: 33,980 Ibs.
Engine(s): four 1,200-hp Pratt & Whitney R-1830-43 Twin Wasp radial piston engines
Rate of climb: 1,100 ft per minute
Armament: one (usually three) 0.5-in (12.7-mm) nose gun, two in dorsal turret, two in tail turret, two in retractable ball turret and two in waist positions; plus a maximum internal bomb load of 8,000 lb (3629 kg)
Contractor: Consolidated Aircraft.
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