<VV> B-24 Assembly

Tony Underwood tony.underwood at cox.net
Thu Nov 25 10:55:19 EST 2010

At 05:50 PM 11/22/2010, James P. Rice wrote:
>All:  Several things of interest here.  When the war dept went to H.Ford his
>own self, they told him how to build the B-24.  He said no.  Being desperate
>for aircraft, the Fed's finally agreed to let Ford do it his way, which was
>to set up a assembly line process with strict quality controls.  Hence the
>one per hour, which was faster than anybody else was or could do it.
>According to what I think I remember reading, all his B-24's flew alike:
>straight and true, unlike those made by others, including the original
>designer/manufacturer, which was Consolidated Aircraft if I remember right.

Consolidated-Vultee aka Convair, later to become a part of General 
Dynamics, which is now part of Lockheed-Martin.  (I think I got all 
that right... Ned?)

>Again. if I remember correctly, there were more B-24's made than any other
>US built aircraft.  While the B-17 got all the glory over Europe, the B-24
>crews did most of the work.  And suffered the most losses.

B-24s didn't serve as much in Europe as the B-17s.   Most of the 
Liberators eventually went to the Pacific theater where their longer 
range and carrying capacity was put to use flying over water where 
there was little fighter opposition and formations could be spread out.

The B-24 was not a very good formation-flier aircraft.  It buffeted 
in turbulence and wandered to and fro and made tight formations an 
ongoing exercise in futility which fatigued pilots who constantly had 
to be making corrections.    The B-17 was a much better formation 
vehicle which needed almost no corrections... it simply kept going 
straight in spite of turbulence.  The B-17 also was easier to fly, 
over-all and more comfortable to the cockpit crews in cold 
environments; the B-24 cockpit was drafty (nose gear doors were never 
totally successful at keeping the wind out) and hard to keep warm 
when it's -40 outside.   You could make a gentle turn in a B-17 
simply by cranking the yoke over a bit, not unlike steering a 
car.   A B-24 would slip without rudder inputs.  The B-17 was also 
much tougher than the B-24.   If you had to belly-land a B-17 you 
unbolted the belly turret and dumped it in the channel (so as to not 
"break the airplane's back") and slid the airplane down onto the 
grass on its belly, jacked it up and cranked the LG down and towed it 
to the hanger and repaired it.   Sometimes they would fly again 
within a couple of days.    Belly-land a B-24 and it was 
totaled.  The fuselage was good at carrying loads but very poor on 
maintaining integrity if it had to support the weight of the 
airplane.   It would simply mash up and flatten out, sometimes 
breaking in two.   B-17 crews often developed a genuine love for 
their ride, and trusted it with their lives (actually they did 
exactly that each time they flew it into combat).  The B-24 seldom 
ever received that sort of dedication the way the B-17 did.

On the other hand:

The B-24 was a more advanced aircraft.  It's strange thick chord 
Davis airfoil wing actually had lower resistance than the symmetrical 
airfoil the B-17 used and was there for more efficient, making the 
B-24 faster and with longer range than the B-17.   This made it a 
better candidate for long trips in the Pacific (as well as longer 
missions over Europe).   The B-24 also used PW R1830 14 cylinder 
engines which were smoother and quieter than the Wright R1820 9 
cylinder engines the B-17 used.   Lots of guys who flew both 
airplanes lamented the raspy rough-idle Wright engines which never 
did seem to run as smoothly as the PWs although the Wrights were much 
easier to service and in fact more durable and sturdier built than 
the PWs  (belly-land a B-17 and it bent the prop blades, belly-land a 
B-24 and it busted the front of the engine's crankcase) and produced 
at least as much power if not more when pressed, such as in combat 
emergency situations where if necessary a B-17 could remain aloft on 
ONE engine IF it was the #2 or #3 and pressed to full throttle/fine 
pitch with the waste gate shut, although only for about 5-10 minutes 
or so, after which the engine would become "clattering junk" in short 
order.   However, a few B-17s returned to England with only one 
engine still operating, without which they would likely have ended up 
in the channel (a lot did anyway).  The B-24 was not a good flier on 
two engines and even worse if those two were on the same wing, while 
a B-17 could fly all day with two engines out on the same wing... 
like the B-17 "Little Willie" which got busted up on a mission over 
Berlin, falling out of formation (usually a death sentence since such 
aircraft get singled out quickly and shot to hell) and ended up 
flying back home all the way from Berlin on two engines on one wing, 
tree-hopping.   A B-24 wouldn't have been able to manage that.

(this is one of my favorite depictions of a B-17, ever)

Still, the B-24 certainly did its fair share of work, especially on 
long range missions where a heavy load carrying capability was 
required.  It also was capable of staying aloft for long periods and 
was good for patrol work, and several variants were built as naval 
patrol aircraft which remained in service after WW-II.   The B-24 was 
also able to carry cargo if needed, something the B-17's slender 
fuselage had trouble accommodating.  In fact, a transport-cargo 
variant of the B-24 was built and one still flies today with the 
CAF.   In spite of its liabilities such as less stability in tight 
formation flying and crew comforts, it proved more versatile than the 
B-17 which was a specialty-built bomber intended to perform a single 
purpose and do it well.

B-17 crew used to call the B-24s "banana boats", or "flying trucks 
used for transporting B-17 parts".   B-24 crew had their own 
replies...  called the B-17 "flying target" (the B-17 presented a 
larger silhouette than the B-24)  or "antiques" (the B-24 was a much 
newer airplane).

Whichever... both airplanes served with distinction throughout the 
war and both did their jobs well.  In the end, the B-17 was a better 
flier and more durable, while the B-24 had performance (range, speed, 
load carrying) on its side and was built in larger numbers.

It was a good thing that BOTH were available because neither was able 
to perform all the tasks the other could manage.   Like the old 
cliche goes, "Specialization is for insects".   In that perspective, 
the B-17 was more specialized while the B-24 was the more versatile 
of the two.

One note:   Although officially the B-24 was stated as having a 
better load capacity, 8th AF crews often exceeded the max gross T/O 
weight of a B-17 by as much as a ton (or more) and the airplanes 
would be so heavily loaded that sometimes they would break through 
the runway paving.   One airplane was said to have been estimated as 
weighing 72,000 lbs and it still managed to get off the 
ground.   That's an amazing stunt for a 5000 hp airplane with only 
100 feet of wingspan.

Pray for ground effect at the runway's end...   ;)

>As a side note, my 6th grade teacher was in the 8th AF.  He said the B-24
>flew like a brick with a couple engines out, while the B-17 glided much
>better on minimum power.  So the crews understandably loved the B-17's.

Indeed...  the B-17 inspired genuine affection among its crews.   It 
was almost as if the airplane had a soul...

>Joseph Fink was a radio operator on a B-17 and sole survivor when his
>aircraft was shot done my friendly fire.  Which may be the greatest
>oxymoron's ever uttered in any language.

"Friendly fire isn't".     -- Murphy's Law of Revisions

>I'm suspect he has departed this
>life as we know it by now, as have most of his generation, but he made a
>difference in my life.  RIP, Mr Fink.

When the USA's Greatest Generation finishes leaving us, we ALL will 
be the worse for it.   All that we can do is to try to live up to 
their ideal.

Corvair content:

If you drive a Corvair, its engine may well be a piece of a 
B-24.   Or maybe a B-17 for that matter.  The vast majority of both 
airplanes that returned home got recycled because of the aluminum 
shortages following the war that extended up through the 1950s.


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