The Consolidated C-87 'Liberator Express' was a transport version of the B-24 Liberator bomber that was produced in reasonable numbers and saw service with the USAAF, US navy, RAF and RAAF.
The first conversion, the XC-87, was built at Fort Worth in 1942, using a B-24D that had crashed. This made its maiden flight on 24 August 1942. The XC-87 had all of its guns and bombing equipment removed, and a modified fuselage with passenger seats and a port side loading door.
A total of 291 C-87s or related designs were built - one XC-87 prototype, 279 C-87 transports, 6 C-87A VIP transports and 5 AT-22/ TB-24 flight engineer trainers. Of these eight went to the US Navy as the RY-1 and RY-2.
Twenty four C-87s went to the RAF, where they were designated the Liberator VII. They were used by No.229 Group on routes across the Far East and by No.46 Group of Transport Command in Britain. The RAF also converted a number of its Liberator III bombers to an unarmed cargo version, as the Liberator C.III.
Two C-87s went to the RAAF operating alongside a much larger number of B-24s.
In American service the C-87 was first used by the Air Corps Ferrying Command. They saw most use on the 'hump' route to China, where some were given forward firing machine guns in case they ran into Japanese aircraft.
The C-87-CF was the main production version of the aircraft. It had R-1830-43 engine and twenty-five seats in the modified fuselage, with windows along the side of the fuselage below the wings. 279 C-87s were converted on the production line at Fort Worth between the summer of 1942 and August 1944.
Of these aircraft five went to the Navy where they were given the designation RY-2.
The C-87A-CF was a VIP transport version of the C-87. It had space for sixteen passengers with ten sleeping berths. Six were built during 1943 , of which three went to the Navy where they became the RY-1.
One of the Army aircraft (41-24159) became the first Presidential aircraft, the 'Guess Where II'. This had larger fuel tanks from a C-54, and was used by President Roosevelt.
The C-87B-CF was the designation given for an armed version which would have carried five 0.50in guns. None were built.
Five unarmed C-87s were completed as flight engineer training aircraft, with the designation AT-22. They were later redesignated as the TB-24D.
The C-87-CO was the designation allocated to a transport version of the single tailed B-24N. Very few of the bomber version were completed, despite a large order. No C-87Cs were built. However a number of RY-3 transports were built for the US Navy, based on the single tailed PB4Y-2 Privateer.
Engine: Pratt & Whitney R-1830-43 Twin Wasp radial engines
Length: 66ft 4in
Empty Weight: 31,900b
Gross Weight: 56,000lb
Maximum Speed: 306mph
Cruising Speed: 190mph
Climb rate: 20.9min to 20,000ft
Range: 2,900 miles
Payload: 12,000lb cargo or 25 passengers