05 December, 2014

Profile 95: FINISHED—"176" the B-24M as flown by the RAAF

It's done!  At least 'on paper.'

Have a look at "176"—the RAAF B-24M being restored in Australia, right now.    My artwork will be used by the B-24 Liberator Memorial Australia to help fund their operations.  It's not my place to announce plans—watch their Facebook page.  But I do know this: the "B-24LMA" are ON IT and it's going to be cool.  ;)  I hope they raise a bundle.  They need to.

I don't think I need to go into detail about how restoring an antique airplane—albeit a four engined bomber—is somewhat less complicated than creating life on another planet.  But suffice it to state, the process started in 1988.   Since then, the Aussies have taken 176's crusty hulk and gone from this:

To this!
Source:  Judy Gilbert, B-24 Liberator Memorial Australia

The quantity of time, energy and money that has gone into this restoration is staggering and the quality of it all is even more so.  In fact, consider...

...the process started in 1988.  2015 will be the group's 27th year.
...the B24LMA puts 14,500 hours into 179's restoration, annually.
...30+ volunteers work on the restoration.
...179 will be flyable with all the systems working but it won't fly.*
...the total tab for restoration will be north of $750,000.**
...it'll be done when it's done (not much longer though as they have 90% of the parts).

So, while (we're) all waiting for her completion,  have a look at the graphic below.  It's the summation of all the proofs, leading into the finished piece.  In relation to everyone else's work, I had the easiest go of it, don't you think?

Source: Me.  Timelapse of about 30 days of work.

I got to interact a bit with the volunteer team and had to ask, "Why do you do this?!"  For a group with such a pointed focus, the motives were diverse.  Love of aviation history, national pride, mechanical joy, social interaction and the time-honored "get's me out of the house" were all offered as answers.

But there's an unspoken reason, too. They all get it.

"Get what?"  Good question.  But before I answer that,  I've got a really funny joke about what it's like to teach History in America. But I've been told not to post it due to the fact that it could considered "offensive."  Of course, it doesn't have anything to do with race, sexual orientation, legal status, income, political affiliation or physical attributes.  Instead, it's about the priority that our average school system places on the subject.

I'm not here to offend.  But the fact is, History, as a subject matter, is all-too-often given short shrift.  Specifically, how it's taught.  Too often, the study is a rote-learning of names, dates and places then tested with forgettable multiple-choice answers of little or no consequence to anything other than a semester grade.

Source:  Me and some image I found.  Who drew Frank?! Whoever you are, you're awesome.

That's why bringing "176" to life is so brilliant:  it's a tangible expression of how human life on earth works.

For example.

• The B-24's secret to long range and load carrying capability was due to one persistent freelance inventor and a large corporation willing to listen to a "little guy's" big idea.

• B-24s were built by women who entered the labor force to support the war effort.  In the process, they made an immeasurable impact toward the advancement of equal rights.

• B-24s were crewed by ten people; a team of individual expertise where life or death could hinge on the performance of the weakest link.

• B-24s were very "green" - of the 18,000+ made, only about 20 remain.  The rest were recycled into toaster ovens, cars and beer cans.  Swords into ploughshares, eh?

• Operating 50 Aussie B-24s required the skills of 5,000 people in just one town in Australia (Tocumwal).  When the war was over, their experience helped them find new work elsewhere.

And most importantly...

• The cruel and intolerant culture of WW2 Japanese imperialism was squashed.

See, 176 isn't just an old airplane.  It's fresh inspiration.  And that's the "get it" that binds all of us who know the value of connecting the past to the present.  We've discovered when we pay attention to the past, the payoff is a better future.

And here's to the future of 176!

(raises a rivet gun in toast)

Source:  Anthony Potter Collection via Getty Images

*Judy Gilbert, B24LMA Secretary, stated, "If we took it up and bent it, we'd get lynched!"  And the costs of Airworthy Certificates, maintenance and fuel would be staggering.

**$750,000 is raw cost.  Add labor?  All the donated this'n that?  You're talking millions.