The Planes

B-24 Consolidated Liberator Bomber

From 1939 through 1941, the unit cost of a B-24 was $379,162.00, falling in 1942 to $304,391.00, and by 1944 they averaged out to $215,516.00. This was considerably more expensive than the B-17, which had a final unit cost of $187,742.00.

A total of 18,888 aircraft were built from the basic B-24 design, more than any U.S. combat aircraft including fighters. Had the cancelled contracts been completed, the total would have neared 24,000 airplanes.

The B-24 possessed an initial advantage over the B-17 with its larger bomb load and ability to carry it further and farther with the same ten-man crew. Originally, having a 2,850-mile range and 2,500-lb. bomb load, experience showed it to have a longer reach than any other competing airplane. For this reason, too, it was chosen over the B-17 for the Southwest Pacific and China-Burma-India war zones. However, the B-17 was better suited for holding its own more readily against the Germans.

Maximum bomb load rose in B-24's from 8,800 lbs. to 12,800 lbs.

Senator George McGovern, candidate for President in 1972, was a B-24 Pilot.

American-trained Yugoslavian crews flew B-24's.

The broad slab side of the B-24 gave play to all kinds of artistic expression and many of them became "flying billboards" with ingenious decorative effects.

The B-24 saw service in all theaters, including the Aleutian Islands.

The B-24 is best remembered for the long-distance raids on Rumania's Ploesti oil fields and refineries from bases in North Africa. One such, named "Lady Be Good," overshot its Libyan base by several hundred miles and crash-landed in the Sahara, only to be found some 16 years later.

A B-24 held the record for crossing the Atlantic in 6:12 hours.

The Army Air Force allocated 528 B-24's to the Royal Air Force, but this allocation was reduced to 478.

The fuselages of some B-24's can still be found in various parts of the country where they serve as living quarters.

In Service
The last B-24 reported in action was dropping supplies to Chinese Nationalist guerrillas operating in Northern Burma in February, 1961 when Burmese fighter planes engaged it and shot it down.

The Indian Air Force was the last military force to use the B-24. The bombers were in active service during the 1950's, and in 1968 several spendidly airworthy machines were donated to various aviation museums in Canada and the United States.

Six Army Air Corps Ferry Command Pilots flew 26,000 miles to Central Aisa over North Africa and the Mid-East and returned in October, 1941, on what was described as a truly "hazardous" mission. Pilots Col. Caleb V. Haynes and Lt. Col. Curtis E. LeMay transported Air Corps Chief Maj. Gen. George H. Brett to the Near East war zone to confer with British aviation authorities. The return route was across the South Atlantic, and the entire trip was made at an average speed of 237 m.p.h.

All B-24's were declared surplus in late 1945 and scrapped. The last B-24 in the USAF inventory was a Ford EZB-24M-PO, AF serial 44-51228, finally surveyed in 1953.

The B-24 was designed for high-altitude precision bombing beyond the range of anti-aircraft fire, and was equipped with heavy armor and self-sealing fuel tanks.

It was a strong-boned breed that could withstand terrific punishment. There were many incidents where the B-24 kept flying after having lost considerable portions of the wings or tails. Structural failures were almost unheard of, and some flew better than 50 missions without a single mechanical problem.

It was extremely popular for its great range, load and fire-power. The B-24 undertook some of the longest missions of the war and was often loaded with several tons more than maximum capacity. One B-24 reportedly actually got off the ground during one test at 100,000 lbs. gross weight.

Its ingeneous wing lended strength to the B-24 in that it enabled it to fly faster per unit of horsepower and therefore farther, escaping some batterings a slower craft couldn't avoid. Fuel consumption was between 25 and 90 gallons per hour per engine depending on engine settings.

The B-24 was considered by many British pilots to be the best bomber produced by the United States.

The B-24 represented a new blood line as age of airplanes was measured. In them were embodied the best features of design and construction, with no apologies to tradition or to anyone.

General Specifications

Wing Span:
110 feet on all models

63 ft. 9 in. XB-24 through XB-24B
66 ft. 4 in B-24C through XB-24F
67 ft. 2 in B-24G through XB-24Q

19 ft. XB-24 through B-24C
17 ft. 11 in. B-24D through XB-24Q

Wing Area:
1,048 sq. ft. on all models

Gross Weight:
Variable from 46,400 lbs. for XB-24 to 65,000 lbs. on XB-24N

Top Speed:
273 m.p.h. for XB-24
313 m.p.h. for B-24C
Between 290 m.p.h. and 306 m.p.h. for all subsequent models

Service Ceiling:
Variable from 30,000 ft. plus

2,500-3,000 miles on all models

Variations on Pratt & Whitney R-1830, all rated at 1,200 h.p.


In 1940-41 the Beech Aircraft Company designed an advanced multi-engine trainer for ease and speed of manufacture on a large scale and named it the "Wichita." To conserve service metals needed for combat aircraft, Beech built the airframe out of plywood with only the engine cowlings and cockpit enclosure constructed of aluminum. The fuel tanks also were made of wood and covered with neoprene, a synthetic rubber. The extensive use of wood permitted Beech to subcontract the production of many components to furniture makers and other firms.

This advanced trainer, designated the AT-10, had superior performance among twin engine trainers of its type and over half of the Army Air Force's pilots received transitional training from single to multi-engine aircraft in them. Between 1941 and 1943, Beech built 1,771 AT-10's and Globe Aircraft Corporation (which became Temco after World War II) built 600 in Dallas, Texas.

Span: 44 ft. 0 in.
Length: 34 ft. 4 in.
Height: 10 ft. 4 in.
Weight: 6,465 lbs.
Armament: None
Engine: Two Lycoming R-680-9 radials of 295 hp. each

Maximum speed: Approximately 190 mph/165 knots
Range: Approximately 660 statute miles/572 nautical miles
Service Ceiling: Approximately 20,000 ft.


The PT-19 developed by Fairchild in 1938 to satisfy a military requirement for a rugged monoplane primary trainer, was ordered into quantity production in 1940. In addition to being manufactured by Fairchild during WW II, the "Cornell" was produced in the U.S. by the Aeronca, Howard and St. Louis Aircraft Corporations and in Canada by Fleet Aircraft, Ltd.

Some Cornells were powered by Continental radial engines and designated PT-23s, while others were produced with cockpit canopies and designated PT-26s. Altogether, 7,742 Cornells were manufactured for the AAF, with 4,889 of them being PT-19s. Additional Cornells were supplied to Canada, Norway, Brazil, Ecuador and Chile.

Span: 35 ft. 11 3/16 in.
Length: 27 ft. 8 3/8 in.
Height: 7 ft. 9 in.
Weight: 2,450 lbs. loaded
Armament: None
Engine: Ranger L-440 of 175 hp.

Maximum speed: 124 mph.
Cruising speed: 106 mph.
Range: 480 miles
Service Ceiling: 16,000 ft.


First flown in prototype form in April 1935, the BT-9 was the end result of North American Aviation's private-venture NA-16 single engine basic trainer for the US Army Air Corps. A total of 226 BT-9ís were ordered in three different models providing excellent training for a student and instructor under a tandem glass canopy. The US Navy also took delivery of 40 of the aircraft, which they fitted with a more powerful 600-hp engine and designated the NJ-1.

Initially, the aircraft had a fabric skin, but NAA then produced a metal-covered fuselage with a more powerful 450 hp Wright engine, designated the BT-14. 251 aircraft of this variant were bought by the Army Air Corps. Several nations also purchased the BT-14, among them France, which ordered 230, designated the NA-57. When that country fell to the Germans, 1199 undelivered aircraft were sold to Britain; issued to Canada as the Yale-1.

Its lines and overall size are similar to North American's later T-6 / SNJ / Harvard trainer, and the two are often confused. The BT-9 / BT-14 / Yale is easily identified by its fixed landing gear and wheel spats.