|RAF Serial Number||AL503|
|Details||Not delivered; crashed on final acceptance flight, 2.6.41|
AL503 was the first Liberator Mk.II. It had made its first flight 26 May 1941, and was ready to be turned over to the Royal Air Force.
AL503 crashed on its acceptance flight, 2 June 1941. The aircraft was destroyed and all five on board were killed.
Consolidated Model LB-30, Liberator B Mk.II, AL503, photographed 2 June 1941—the same day it crashed. The four-gun upper turret is visible. The bomb bay is open. (Consolidated Aircraft Corporation)
Big Bomber Made for Britain Crashes in San Diego Bay; Four Members of Crew Perish
SAN DIEGO, Calif., June 2—(AP)—A $250,000 four-motored Consolidated bomber crashed and sank in San Diego Bay today, shortly after taking off from Lindbergh Field. Consolidated Aircraft Corp. officials said four of the crew members apparently perished.
The 25-ton craft was camouflaged and ready for delivery to Great Britain.
William B. Wheatley, 39, Chester, N.Y., chief test pilot for the Consolidated Aircraft Corp., apparently was at the controls. The Navy had taken over rescue operations, and details and names of crew members were not immediately available.
Witnesses said the huge plane left the airport on what appeared to be a normal takeoff, but that the bomber pulled up steep into a vertical climb instead of leveling off. At about 500 feet the plane apparently was in a stall.
The bomber then fell off to the left, and nosed down and the pilot, using the throttle appeared to have recovered. This difficulty was experienced over the airport, but by the time the pilot apparently had regained control of the craft it was flying over the water an an altitude of about 100 feet, the bomber again fell off to the left and the wing struck the water.
A Consolidated spokesman said the crash had “evidence of sabotage.”
The spokesman said the $250,000, 25-ton land bomber had been “thoroughly tested, and things like that just don’t happen.”
Believed dead were:
William Wheatley, 39, Chester, N.Y., chief test pilot for the company.
The bodies of Wheatley, Craig and Austin had not been recovered from the shattered bomber.
The impact with the water shattered the bomber, witnesses said, and it sank. Navy and small fishing vessels went to the rescue. The plane went down in an area between the San Diego shoreline and the naval air station.
The result was that only 139 Liberator II's were ever delivered to any air force.
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