Before jet-age stretches of transport aircraft fuselage designs became commonplace, in World War II the Consolidated Aircraft Company demonstrated how it is done with the famed B-24 Liberator heavy bomber.
In 1941, ahead of America’s entry into the war, Consolidated made a design change to the Liberator that added nearly 3′ — 2′, 7″, to be exact — to the nose of the aircraft ahead of the cockpit. This gave all subsequent Liberators a longer, less pug-nosed appearance and provided greater space where the navigator and bombardier worked.
And in 1943 when the Navy’s derivative PB4Y-2 Privateer variant of the Liberator was taking form, a 7′ fuselage plug was inserted behind the cockpit. This was accomplished on the three prototype Privateers by pulling apart a normal Liberator fuselage and inserting new structure. This extension accommodated the Privateer’s sophisticated search radar and electronics equipment.
Consolidated had a penchant for stretching Liberators. One of the early pug-nose Liberators, used by Consolidated as a company transport during the war, received the 3′ nose stretch along with a metalized nose in place of its original multi-paned greenhouse.
An even more ambitious metamorphosis saw a standard B-24D (serial number 42-40355), that had endured a crash in the Arizona desert, repeatedly modified by Consolidated as one of its small fleet of Liberator company aircraft.
For awhile, this Liberator flew with the 7′ fuselage plug common to the Privateer, and the cargo amenities and windows of a C-87 transport variant. That growing nose gave the airplane its wartime nickname — Pinocchio —after the story of a puppet whose nose grew when he told lies.
Then, Consolidated removed the airplane’s traditional B-24 twin tail and installed a single tail like that used on the Navy’s Privateer patrol bomber version.
Another Consolidated Liberator makeover was the stretching and single-tail adaptation of an early Royal Air Force Liberator II, serial AL504, that had been Winston Churchill’s transport into 1943.
Nicknamed “Commando,” this Liberator emerged from Consolidated’s modification facility in Tucson, Arizona, with many of the features of a long-bodied RY-3 transport version.