The B-24 Liberator Memorial Restoration Fund in Werribee, Victoria was formed in 1989 by a dedicated group of volunteers with the purpose of restoring the last surviving Consolidated B-24 Liberator bomber operated by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) in World War Two (remarkable given they operated 287 B-24D, B-24J, B-24L and B-24M models from 1944 to 1948). This particular aircraft is a B-24M model that was delivered from the United States in late 1944 (s/n 44-41956, RAAF serial number A72-176) and was later modified with the addition of a target tracking search radar in the lower fuselage and redesignated as a B-24R.
B-24M A72-176 served with RAAF No. 7 Operational Training Unit at Tocumwal, NSW to train B-24 crews. At war’s end the airframe luckily survived the fate of many Liberators and avoided the scrap yard. It continued to be operated as a transport and for other roles, then following its final flight on March 26th, 1946 became Instructional Airframe No. 5 at RAAF East Sale until 1948 when it was sold to a farmer for scrap. The Werribee team obtained the fuselage in 1995 and began the long restoration process in 1996, in an old hangar at the former RAAF Werribee Aerodrome site that was built in 1940 for use by various RAAF units and used as a training field and storage/repair base. To read a more detailed history on the airframe and its restoration please take a look at my blog from my last visit in April 2016.
I love visiting this restoration and wandering around the old World War Two hangar. It is an active workshop and there is cool stuff all over the place from aircraft parts, to tools, memorabilia, artefacts, old photos, models, diagrams and so on. It is a fascinating place!
The ultimate aim is to have a B-24 restoration that is capable of taxiing for demonstration purposes but it will not fly. Part of my most recent visit on June 25th, 2017 was to see the restoration team conduct an engine run on a test frame, of one of the 1,200 HP Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp R1830-65 radial engines that powered the B-24 into flight long ago. After a brief lull the mighty radial engine roared into life in all its loud glory! My Nephew and I were impressed with the sound (I took him along for his first visit to the B-24 restoration and he loved it, especially exploring inside the bomb bay and fuselage).
Since my last visit in February 2016 the external fuselage and wings do not look much different, but the internal fuselage restoration has come a long way. The bomb bay looks brand new and gives the impression you could be standing in there surrounded by bombs on a mission over Japanese held territory in 1944!
Alas, although a site is secured they are still waiting on still waiting on a decision from Heritage Victoria in regards to a new hangar big enough to establish a museum precinct on the present location (the original plan was to relocate and use the larger RAAF Werribee Hangar that is nearby but there are some issues in regards to condition, relocation, maintaining heritage status, asbestos and so on)! Hopefully that will all be resolved in the near future (an on again, off again, stop, start process by the sounds of things)!