The Commemorative Air Force’s “Diamond Lil” may be no more.
The B-24, the oldest in existence, is in the midst of a restoration that will return it to its original B-24A status.
Based at the B-29/B-24 Squadron at the CAF’s Midland, Texas, headquarters, “Diamond Lil,” was put in the paint scheme and markings of the 98th Bomb Group of the 9th Air Force in 1971.
But extensive research by squadron members discovered that it was originally part of an order for B-24As for the United States Army Air Corps. However, the British desperately needed a long-range bomber for use in coastal patrols and for defense, so Consolidated Aircraft Corp., which built more than 18,000 B-24s, received permission to divert 20 planes from the Army Air Corps order for the British.
The plane was damaged in a training accident and never saw battle. Consolidated rebuilt it to a transport configuration and it was used as a company aircraft throughout World War II.
The decision to reconfigure the bomber was made in early October by the elected staff of the B-29/B-24 Squadron. Work began Oct. 31. According to B-29/B-24 Squadron Crew Chief Gary Austin, they began at the front of the airplane and are working their way back.
The nose has been removed and sent off for new glass. The wooden cabinets in the cockpit have been removed to make way for the original navigation station. All of the floorboards have been removed from the bomb bay area so that bomb bay doors can be simulated.
“We simply don’t have the time or facilities to install bomb doors at this time,” he said, “but it is being discussed for the future.”
The radio operator’s floor has been lowered to its original position, and the right-hand waist gunner’s position has been exposed.
Work has started on raising the floor on the waist gunner’s position. The tunnel gun position also has been exposed. The structure was already present, and Austin estimated that 95% of the components for the tunnel gun position have been fabricated. Work also has begun on fabricating the tail gun.
The new configuration may bring a new name to the aircraft, according to Kay Crites, a CAF official. That decision will be made before the official unveiling of the airplane’s new configuration, slated for May 12 during a Twin Tails Fly-In to be held at CAF headquarters.
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