Versatile Bomber

If it's ingenuity that is needed, try the American aircraft industry. Here is a clever conversion job by Consolidated.

Nearly every American aircraft to date has confounded its critics by showing itself to be quickly adaptable to nearly any flying task. Consolidated's Liberator is typical of this capability. Basically a four-engined heavy bomber that today is in wide use by the US Army, Navy and the Royal Air Force, the Liberator first was used as a makeshift transport by the British in the early days of the war. Because all the British Liberators were bombers, passengers and cargo were dumped unceremoniously on the bomb bay doors for the eight-to-10-hour flight from Newfoundland to England. To say that the passengers "roughed it" is putting it mildly. They rarely, if ever, saw anything because there were no windows. They had to wear heavy flying suits because bombers' bomb bays are not. equipped with heaters. Despite the suits, passengers many times came close to freezing.

Despite such drawbacks, the Liberator did an admirable job of weight-carrying. Soon Consolidated engineers were asked to see what they could do about changing the Liberator design here and there, in the hope that a modification of the bomber would help break the air transport bottleneck. How well they succeeded can be seen by the cutaway drawings on this page – and by the fact that the Liberator Express now is in large-scale production.

Externally, the Liberator Express differs only a litle from the original bomber. There are windows along the fuselage, heaters inside the cabin, built-in oxygen equipment and other necessities. The bomb doors are gone and the seats are quickly removable to make way for cargo. There is one .50-caliber machine gun in a rack beside the tail window, "just in case." Otherwise, it's the same Liberator. There are four 1,200-hp supercharged radial engines. Speed is more than 300, range with full load approximately 3,000 miles. Service ceiling is 35,000 feet. Wing span is 110'; length 66'4"; height 18' (with nose wheel on the ground.)

Liberator Expresses — technically, in the Army Air Forces, they are called C-97s — today are flying nearly every single route of the gigantic air transport system flown by the US armed forces.

Chief structural changes in basic Liberator design were the elimination of gun turrets and bomb bays. A cargo hatch was added to the fuselage near the tail (doors can be seen in phantom above). Note series of oxygen bottles along roof of passenger version. Motor-like device just forward of the tail compartment is a warm-air blower for cabin heat. The .50-caliber gun can be seen in rack beside window in tail.

This two-page mostly pictorial article was originally published in the July, 1943, issue of Flying including Industrial Aviation magazine, vol 33, no 1, pp 28-29.

Cutaway drawings: