B-29 / B-24 Squadron
The B-29/B-24 Squadron of the Commemorative Air Force brings together the aircraft, pilots and crews from over 70 CAF units across the country to create the AirPower History Tour – an ever changing assortment of military aircraft touring together to bring the sights, sounds and smells of World War II aviation history to audiences across the United States.
The AirPower History Tour always includes the two rarest World War II bombers in the world – FIFI, the most famous flying Boeing B-29 Superfortress and Diamond Lil, an equally rare B-24 Liberator. Aircraft accompanying the B-29 or B-24 will include other World War II aircraft such as the P-51 Mustang, the B-17 Flying Fortress and the B-25 Mitchell, along with an assortment of fighters, trainers and liaison aircraft.
Check www.AirPowerTour.org to see when the tour will be in your area and to learn which airplanes will be at each stop.
History of the B-24 Liberator - Diamond Lil
Designated AM927 in 1941, this B-24A was to become Diamond Lil
Contracted to be built for France in 1940 and later redirected to Great Britain as AM927, this Liberator was the 25th (Serial number 18) built out of a total of 18,482 B-24s.
It was accepted by the British in May 1941. Two days later, this aircraft was handed over to Trans World Airlines (TWA) to conduct training of RAF pilots out of Albuquerque, NM.
The following month, Frank Burcham and Ned MacKrille, TWA instructor pilots, were practicing landings. The right main brake locked up during landing and aircraft departed the runway. “The right gear collapsed, followed by the nose gear failure, before they came to a stop.” There was also significant damage to the bomb bay.
Consolidated initiated a recovery effort over the next 6 months and in December of 1941, the aircraft was flown back to the Consolidated Aircraft Company in San Diego.
Due to the extent of the damage, the aircraft would not be returned to service as a bomber. An arrangement was made between the British Ministry and Consolidated Aircraft Company for the company to keep possession of AM927 for logistic support and further B-24 development.
AM927 was immediately utilized as the C-87 Liberator Express prototype and returned to service in July 1942. Throughout the war, the aircraft was used to haul personnel and equipment between the five B-24 production plants and numerous vendors.
AM927 was also used extensively for flight test purposes, developing such things as improved flight control characteristics for the later model Liberator bombers.
CAF B-24A Liberator AM927 - After the War
Owned by Consolidated Vultee:
In November 1945, AM927, which was the British designation, was officially sold back to Consolidated. It underwent numerous modifications between 1945 and 1947, including the long RY-3 nose and PBY nacelles. Registered as N1503.
Owned by Continental Can Company:
On November 10, 1948 the aircraft was sold to the Continental Can Company. It was painted white and outfitted with a luxury interior. AM927, registered as N1503 flew as executive transport between its North American plants for the next 10 years.
Owned by PEMEX:
In April 1959, the aircraft was sold and exported to the Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex) Mexican state-owned petroleum company. The Registration became XC-CAY and it was used to transport personnel throughout Latin America and the U.S.
Owned by the CAF:
In May 1968, the CAF took possession of the aircraft. The transaction to purchase the AM927 was complicated by the fact that PEMEX wanted to retain the engines for use on their DC-3s. The eventual deal included a set of DC-6 engines and $60,000. It was then registered as N12905 until 1990, when it was registered as the current N24927.
In 1971, AM927 was painted in the colors of the 98th Bomb Group and given the name “Diamond Lil”. During the next 20 years 'Diamond Lil' traveled extensively throughout the United States - and made an Atlantic crossing to England in 1992.
During 2006-2007 the aircraft was reconfigured back to her B-24A/LB-30B roots and was given the “Ol 927” nose art.
In April 2012, the CAF’s long-time Liberator legacy and nose art “Diamond Lil” was returned and she began a planned summer tour, starting at Andrews Air Base.
On May 26, 2012, Diamond Lil suffered a complete hydraulic failure, due to a burst hydraulic line, and subsequent nose gear collapse, in Charlotte, NC. Restoration took over a year, with much effort required to manufacture and install new parts.
As of June 2013, Diamond Lil is back on tour, as a unique historical testament to the men & women who built, maintained, supported and flew the B-24.
Commemorative Air Force
Collecting and flying warbirds for over half a century, the Commemorative Air Force (CAF) is the largest flying museum in the world. The CAF is a non-profit educational organization dedicated to honoring American military aviation history through flight, exhibition and remembrance. The organization feels this is best accomplished by keeping the aircraft flying. The CAF has approximately 9,000 members and a fleet of over 150 airplanes assigned to 70 units across the country. These units, comprised of CAF volunteer members, restore and operate the planes which are viewed by more than 10 million spectators annually. Visit www.commemorativeairforce.org for more information.