The B-24 Liberator “Diamond Lil,” the world’s oldest flying bomber, is open for tours today at Prior Aviation in Cheektowaga.
The plane was expected to land at Buffalo Niagara International Airport at noon yesterday and move to Prior for tours, but weather issues delayed its arrival and thwarted visitors’ plans to see it Monday.
The B-24 is open to the public until 6 p.m. today, and it may be opened for tours again tomorrow – the Commemorative Air Force organizers are not yet sure.
They do know they’ll be taking rides tomorrow. Those interested can purchase tickets for $375.
B-24s accumulated a prestigious reputation and record as American heavy bombers used by every branch of the U.S. armed forces and several allied forces during World War II.
A handful of World War II U.S. Army Air Corps veterans were on hand for the tour.
Dan Wortham, 91, of Tonawanda, did maintenance on B-24s as an aircraft and engineer mechanic. He worked in England during WWII.
Diamond Lil last visited Western New York in Aug. 2004, when it was joined by B-29 “Fifi.” Wortham was there that day and proudly showed off a photo album from his tour of Diamond Lil.
The B-24 was a more modern, cutting-edge plane than the well-known B-17 Flying Fortress. The B-24 had more high-end features – it was faster and could carry a heavier bomb load – but it was also a more challenging plane to control and navigate.
Diamond Lil stopped being a wartime vehicle after a landing accident on a training flight yielded serious damage.
It was converted into a transport aircraft and became a testing plane on which the Air Force could try out adjustments to B-24s – like finding ways to remedy the hard-to-fly issue.
The first B-24 took off in 1939, making 2014 the 75th anniversary of the model’s first flight. Diamond Lil was the 25th B-24 that Consolidated produced. Out of the 18,482 B-24s that were produced, it is one of two that still flies.
The guided walk-through tours cost $5.