When organiser Jim H planned the Bearbrass tour of the Liberator bomber restoration at Werribee recently, he expected blokes would comprise virtually all the party. But the end-result was 5 females out of 15 – and the women reported they’d had a great morning too.
The project involves the  bomber with its huge 110ft wingspan, four engines and deep fuselage originally missing its tail. Work has been on-going for two decades at the one-time wartime airstrip, and the plane is still only half-built. Worldwide, there are only two flying (one is a cargo variant), with eight part-built and five in “bits and pieces”, said our hangar guide Paul Rourke, who is secretary of the B24 Liberator Memorial.
Our tour highlight was putting in our earplugs and watching the restorers start one of the Wasp
1200HP engines on a test-bed outside, erupting a cloud of blue smoke.  We were warned not to stand in its slipstream – on a previous tour one woman did so to get a good photo  and her white cardigan got covered in a mist of black oil.
Our Bearbrass party mingled and chatted with the many volunteers with their intricate projects all around the airframe. Some ex-fitters are as old as 90. As it was an Open Day for the public, they were happy to down tools and educate us about the B24s’ engineering and aviation history – the RAAF used 287 of them for long-range bombing and training.
One day this B24 will proudly taxi onto the airstrip, engines roaring – but it’s never going to take off. A great and unique morning’s experience for our Bearbrass Club.