Inside of a vintage WWII hangar on a disused airfield in Werribee, Australia volunteers work away at the restoration of a B-24 Liberator, reputably the last remaining Royal Australian Air Force B-24 Liberator in existence. The group, B-24 Liberator Restoration Australia was formed in 1989 for the express purpose of finding and restoring one of these planes to honor the memory of the servicemen, both American and Australian, who flew these airplanes in the defence of Australia during WWII.
These American planes were flown by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) in WWII and are often credited with cutting off Japanese supply lines and thus preventing a widely-feared Japanese invasion of the Island Continent. This particular plane, A72-176 did not see combat, but was instead used by the RAAF No. 7 Operational Training Unit to train flight crews. By the time the war ended, the planes were no longer needed so most were scrapped to satisfy the tremendous pent-up demand for metals that wartime rationing had created. This plane avoided this conversion to pots and pans by being used as a geologic survey plane and then after the wings and tail had been sold for scrap, the fuselage was used as an instructional airframe by the RAAF through 1948 when what remained of the plane was sold into private hands. When the restoration group found the plane in 1995, it was being used to keep chickens near Moe, Victoria.
The fuselage was delivered to the group’s hangar, wings were located from a B-24 shot down over New Guinea, and various other parts were located all around Australia and the world. The plane has been completely re-skinned and meticulously restored by an all-volunteer crew of about 40 and the herculean task, now in it’s 23rd year has completion within sight.
Unfortunately, the vintage WWII-era hangars that house the project are in a very sorry state. The buildings which were quickly thrown together and never intended to last, are a significant liability, one hangar that was being used to store restored parts suffered a roof collapse ten years ago which halted progress while building inspectors they determined whether the remaining buildings were safe to enter. The Hangars were constructed with asbestos roofs that absorb water as they deteriorate, becoming heavier, while simultaneously allowing moisture through to rot out the wooden trusses that support them. Additionally, the local planning comission has cleared the way for the entire site to be re-developed with housing and a school is scheduled to be built on the site where the plane now resides. Negotiations are presently underway with government authorities for a new facility after the groups attempt to gain historical landmark status came to naught. Meanwhile work continues apace on the plane as the volunteers scramble to get it completed before the wrecking ball swings.