Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Diamond 'Lil in the Buff

This installment of 'BuffaloWingz' is two years in the making...

or ten...

or seventy-five, depending on how you look at it.

A couple'a years back, in 2012, the Commemorative Air Force's B-24 'Diamond 'Lil' was slated to visit KBUF, and your blogmeister was rather eager to see her. Not just because he digs the B-24, but mostly because it had been, at that time, eight years since he'd last seen this particular B-24. And during those eight years, 'Lil' had undergone a significant transformation which had left her looking more like her original self. (More on that later)

Unfortunately, shortly before that planned stop here in Buffalo back in 2012, this B-24 had a bit of an 'oopsy' and never made it, instead heading back to the barn in Texas for some TLC.

We'd like to tell you 'Diamond 'Lil's whole story, but that's outside the scope of this-here cyber-rag, and we shall focus on her visit to Buffalo. However, we'll give the bare-bones of her story...

She was built as a B-24A for the USAAC in 1941 but was released for purchase to the British. Unfortunately for the Brits, but fortunately for present-day warbird lovers, she suffered an 'oopsy' and was sent back to the Consolidated factory in San Diego for repairs... never making it overseas and into combat.

Consolidated decided to retain the aircraft and subsequently used her as a testbed and also converted her to a transport. In this respect she served as the prototype for the C-87, a dedicated transport variant of the B-24.

After the war she was operated privately as a corporate executive taxi until the late 1950s, and soon thereafter came into the hands of her present-day owners, the CAF... then known as the Confederate Air Force. In 1970 or 1971 her civilian corporate paint-job was replaced with a more military-lookin' scheme meant to represent an aircraft that served in the deserts of North Africa. Also around this time she received her now well-known name and artwork which she carried, largely unchanged, for more than thirty years.


Here's a look at 'Lil' during a visit to Buffalo back in August of 2004... until yesterday, this was the last time your blogmeister had seen the 'ole gal.



Remember we mentioned a 'significant transformation' earlier? Well, roughly two years after the above photo was taken, work began to change 'Lil' back to her original configuration as a bomber. For various reasons not all of the 'required' changes were carried out, so she is still something of a hybrid. But she looks much more like a bomber these days, and less like a transport.

Perhaps in the future we'll present 'Diamond 'Lil's history in more depth over on one of our sister-blogs, 'Things With Wings'. Keep your eyes peeled, folks...


Alrighty, here we are in June of 2014... and 'Diamond 'Lil' has finally made it back to the Buff. Here's a few shots grabbed by your blogmeister yesterday. He'd initially arrived just before the gates opened in the morning but, as a photographer, was a bit discouraged by the large crowd and overall layout of the display. There were few good photos to be had, so he decided to make another visit later in the day... and the following are the fruits of that second visit.


This was the first view that greeted your blogmeister through the fence upon exiting his vehicle in Prior Aviation's parking lot...



A few more shots through the fence... 'Lil' was just about to depart for the first flight of the day.




Rolling out...



 


Here's the first takeoff of the day... it's a pretty poor photo, as it was taken from a long distance, but we've got a couple more later on that are slightly better. (Your blogmeister needs a longer lens!)



And rolling back in...



Here at BuffaloWingz we normally don't care to have any modern birds or other elements in our warbird photos, but we thought that this was a pretty neat shot... even with the barber pole in the background.



The first couple'a shots in this next series provide the only clear look your blogmeister was able to get of the current incarnation of 'Lil', which was painted by 'Mr. Nose Art' himself... Gary Velasco.








After shutdown and post-flight photo ops for the passengers, your blogmeister grabbed these next two shots before heading over to Mercy Flight (the old Flying Tigers location, for those who know the area) to catch 'Lil's second takeoff of the day.




And here's that second takeoff...


All photos: S.Donacik/BuffaloWingz



Fade to Black...

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