AlphaSim Consolidated B-24 Liberator
A review by John Allard

June 2008



AlphaSim has released another great one. I have a large soft spot for WWII Warbirds and this one was a major player in that little fracas. I was pleased and excited when Mutley suggested I write a review for AlphaSim’s B-24. I like the plane and I like the publisher. What’s not to like? This is, by the way, a full-featured package for both FS9 and FSX.

If you’ve read my work before, you’ll know I’m not a man of few words. This one’s no exception – a big airplane deserves a big review. So grab a beer and get yourself comfortable. We’re going for a ride.


The Consolidated B-24 Liberator retains the record to this day as the most produced US military airplane. Something in the neighbourhood of 18,500 of all variants were built, a number made all the more astonishing by the fact that all were produced in a six-year period, from 1940-1945. Built in parallel at several locations, at one point a single factory near Detroit, Michigan was producing a finished B-24 roughly every 100 minutes, night and day, seven days a week. I don’t know if the Nazi government was aware of that; if they were, one wonders why they did not see the handwriting on the wall much earlier.

Serving with distinction in the daylight bombing campaign in Europe alongside its sturdy companion the B-17, the Liberator also flew in large numbers in numerous other roles. It was utilized extensively for maritime patrol, for which it was very well suited. Dozens of U-Boats met their fate at the hands of Liberators on long Atlantic patrol flights; many more were stymied in their hunt for Allied shipping, forced to hide from the searching patrol bombers, thereby saving innumerable ships and the men and materials they contained. The B-24 type was also employed extensively as tanker and cargo plane and transport and for a number of other duties. These were not one-off or small time operations – large numbers were deployed to all of those less glamorous duties. Winston Churchill’s personal transport aircraft was a single-tail version of the B-24 which he christened “Commando”.

In the Pacific theatre too, the B-24 was a workhorse, put in harness in large numbers following a decision to standardize on the Liberator as the long-range bomber in that theatre.

It was used extensively in the PTO by the US and Allies, shouldering the load as the front-line long-range bomber until supplanted by the emerging B-29 late in the war.

Here too it served in all those auxiliary roles, where the vast distances of the Pacific made its long range invaluable.
B-24 "Cocktail Hour"  

Comparisons between the B-24 and the B-17 are inevitable and rage to this day as to which was “the best”, particularly where the dwindling company of veterans who flew in one or the other still gather. Like so many things, it all depends upon how you measure it. In the final analysis, comparing all the performance specs, the Liberator was the equal of the B-17 or better in every category. It’s most frequently cited drawback doesn’t appear in the performance tables however. The venerable Liberator had a glass jaw compared to the B-17, whose ability to take damage and fly home was legendary. In that single attribute the B-24 took a back seat.

Over the Target

By any measure, however, the B-24 was one of the great planes of the WWII era. Only a few remain today for us to see. Fewer yet, a mere handful, are still flyable thanks to the loving care of a fortunate few and the donations of a multitude who consider the preservation of such icons important. I had the privilege to see one of them in person recently and was reminded again how rare that opportunity is becoming.

AlphaSim is to be congratulated. We who revel in such things should be mindful that their efforts help to preserve the memory, the history and the heritage, if not the actual artefacts of those historic Warbirds. All too soon, like the endangered species that they are, the real aircraft will disappear entirely from the skies, succumbing to old age, corrosion, wear and tear, accidents and eventually just to avoidance of the risk of flying something so rare and irreplaceable. In the meantime, we can enjoy a very credible reminder of one of the aviation lynchpins of that era. Join me now as we take a hard look at AlphaSim’s B-24 Liberator, a bird to remember.

AC Models

B-24 D

As usual, AlphaSim has put together a credible and representative package of models. Included are two B-24 D models, those of the glazed and turret-less nose. There are also two B-24 Js, visually indistinguishable from the B-24 H (not included). These two near-identical twins (at least on the exterior) are generally considered to be the definitive version and together accounted for about 50% of the total B-24 production run.

Rounding out the stable is a single example of the B-24 G, sporting the nose turret of the Js, and a nose section that is so slightly different from the J and H that only their mother can tell them apart.

B-24 J

As expected from AlphaSim, the liveries are authentic, detailed and exceedingly well rendered. The FSX versions benefit from texture sets created in 2048 X 2048 resolution and are DX10 compatible. They include “…interior self-shadowing, realistic spec and shine and custom bump mapping to bring every rivet and surface to life.” The FS9 versions are also excellent – as good as anything I’ve seen for that sim. In the face of all that, simulator performance in both versions was not adversely affected. Though I didn’t do formal testing of frame rates, I never saw any ill effects.

UK users might be disappointed that all five of the models feature US paint jobs, but ownership includes a paint kit each for FS9 and FSX in .psd (Photoshop) format. Those must be downloaded separately because they are very large. This might just be your opportunity to become an accomplished re-painter.

There’s something new to me in this package, a feature AS calls a Visual Load Editor interface. I’ve seen various aircraft configuration editors a few times in the past but they are accessed outside the sim. This one is a pop-up, able to be used “on the fly” with immediate results. Shft-6 pops it up and check boxes toggle four items between visibility and invisibility; bombs in the bomb bay (you have to open the bomb bay doors to actually see them, of course), the aircrew, including gunners, a flag from the cockpit window and most interestingly, a gunner who appears at an opened waist door and traverses his .50 calibre gun about. It’s all about immersion.

Visual Load Editor

There’s lots of visual detail, much of it animated. Cowl flaps have three positions and are individually controllable from the cockpit from a set of three-position switches. When the engines are off, the propellers will feather in response to the prop levers. All the aircrew are realistically garbed and animated. Engine starting smoke is quite well done. There are contrails at altitude, tire smoke at touchdown, and a faint exhaust plume at lower altitudes – maybe I was running those P&Ws just a little too rich. Propellers and spinner hubs appear to rotate slowly and the blades are a broad blur that changes rate with throttle settings. These are very good but would benefit from a full prop disc image too.

The cockpit side windows have a “blister” that is visible in the external view. That feature allowed the pilot and co-pilot to get their eye that little bit further outboard for better visibility. Landing gear details are very good. Rolling bomb bay doors of a unique style on the B-24 cycle realistically and reveal the bombs if they are turned on in the Visual Load Editor. The cockpit side-windows slide open on command.
The underside can only be appreciated in flight from the spot plane view.

The turbochargers, those all-important devices that allowed the engines to operate at great height, are set into the underside of the nacelles and are virtually invisible in ground views.

The ball turret descends into place in response to the tail-hook key. The exposed main-gear tires nestle into their wing-pockets.


Letting it all hang out

The nose art is very good, ranging from text-only through mildly profane to bawdy. Some appear on both sides of the AC. All the exteriors are suitably aged and weathered with some chipped and scarred paint here and there indicating a little wear and tear and hangar rash. There are exhaust stains and oil stains on the wings. All of these add greatly to the feeling of realism. If these things leaked oil on the ramp they’d be perfect.

All that is just eye-candy of course, but is a pretty important part of what we pay for in this hobby of ours. AlphaSim appears to have spent a lot of time on this and did a fine job on it. The proof’s in the flying, however, so let’s go fly it.


I decided the best way to get up close and familiar with this thing was to make some long flights. Killing two birds with one stone, I “bought” the B-24 in my favourite cargo-flying game and proceeded to make a trash-hauler of it. Is that sacrilegious? I hope not. I’ve made several flights of more than 500 miles each and feel like I’ve gotten to know the Liberator pretty well in good weather and bad, in all phases of flight.

No one is ever going to mistake this thing for a fighter. If you like yanking and banking and inverted flight, go buy a Spitfire. That’s not what this plane did. The manual specifically prohibits the following…

-360° roll
-Intentional spin
-Inverted flight
-Vertical bank

I surmise that un-intentional spins and 180 degree rolls were OK, though I guess maybe the vertical bank rules out the latter too. I do note that the split-S is not specifically forbidden, but didn’t try one as I’m too cheap to risk the resulting cargo damage. ACM manoeuvres are not what the Liberator was built for. You might be able to make it roll but the guys flying them in 1944 were getting white knuckles doing their very best to prevent that. What it did best was haul a heavy load a long way while carrying enough defensive armament to keep the wolves away from the door – mostly - when in the company of a sufficient number of its brothers.

Showing off external self shadowing (FSX Only)

When you mount the beast, you’ll see a box asking you to make a choice about controls. This takes a little explaining.

There are 12 levers on the quadrant and that does not include prop levers, whose function is done by switches in this AC. There are throttle and mixture for each engine of course, but the extra four are for the turbochargers. If you want realistic control they have to be set separately from the throttles, BUT, if you decide to do that you cannot use an external throttle control.

If you decide you can live without the realism of the separate supercharger controls, you can signify that and continue to use your external throttle. The supercharger levers will follow the throttles and MSFS will do its magic in the background – as long as you pay attention to the mixtures.
Throttle Pop-up

Checking weight and balance yields a surprise. We’re 3,300 lbs overweight. The default load-out is ALL the fuel, ALL the bomb load and ALL the crew (at 220 lbs each, lugging all that sheepskin and survival gear). If you want a lesson in aborted take-offs or flight in ground effect while exploring the back side of the power curve, leave the loading as it is. Just like most AC of the period, you can’t fill everything and fly, at least not very well. Life is full of compromises. In WWII, how much bomb load you carried was determined by how far you were going and how much fuel you needed to get there and back. What remained of the payload capacity when the required fuel was aboard fixed the bomb load.

Engine start is satisfyingly realistic, but not so complicated as to be a pain. Battery switch on, set the brakes, line up the fuel valves, fuel boost pumps on, set the levers, hit the primer, turn on the mag, press the starter. When the RPMs and oil pressure stabilizes, turn on the generator. Repeat for each engine – it’s as easy as 3, 4, 2, 1.

Starting #3


The primary engine gauges are great. Manifold pressure, RPMs and oil pressure gauges are dual indicating types on a common scale, one for each pair of engines with the engine number legible (really, they’re legible) on each needle. There are dual face gauges of a different type for oil temperatures and cylinder head temps and carburettor inlet temps.

They look realistic, suggesting the instrument types of the period. For the most part they’re easily read and in any case have mouse-over labels that pop up with the readings. They are entirely satisfactory, though in a few cases near the right edge of the screen the tabs are partly out of view. Lacking are exhaust temperature gauges, which would make precise leaning of the engines easier. CHTs are OK, but are much slower to respond.

Collage of Gauges
Fuel gauges are on a pop-up along with the generator switches, voltmeters and an ammeter.

The gauges are – I’m not kidding about this – a pair of level glasses. There’s a small valve below each to line them up to read the second set of tanks. Now, for real, the system is more complex than it seems. It included remote transmitters and such behind the scenes in the real AC.

It’s more than just a simple gauge glass, but what you see are two sight glasses. That’s the style of the readout - more of that immersion we love.

Controls and instruments are well laid out. There’s a sim-icon in the 2D cockpit to take you to the co-pilot’s side because everything can’t be seen from the left seat; another button takes you back. The co-pilot has no flight instruments except a mag compass. If you’re going to drive, you have to do it from the left side.

There are icons for the radio stack (a short stack – more later), the throttle quadrant, which has a lot of other things too, and the fuel and electrical panel.

There are also sim-icons for the GPS, the map, the kneeboard and a toggle for the yoke. One nice touch is a panel switch (not a sim-icon) to centre up the outside view if you’ve “raised the seat” on approach. You don’t have to bat the spacebar to get back to the correct point of view as you cross the threshold – just click the switch.

Fuel & Electrical and Radio Pop-ups

You’ll like the VC. It’s clear and easy to use. What I like best is that if you centre it up you have a good view out the window AND can see all six of the primary flight instruments AND the OBI without having to scan around. It’s made with approaches in mind, even an ILS if you need to. Most VCs are not laid out so well. OK, I have to admit it’s the magnetic compass that’s visible in that view, not the DG, but it’s still a pretty good set of what you need on approach, all within view without panning.

Virtual Cockpit – Zoomed Out

The DG is up on the centre of the panel, above the rest and realistically blocks the view to the right front. The heading bug is a pair of parallel lines that frame the indicator needle when you’re tracking it. The DG takes a little getting used to. It’s like a clock. The hand moves, the scale does not. If you’re flying west, the needle points to your left. The rotating card and lubber’s line we’re accustomed to is nowhere to be seen – except in the magnetic compass.

The radio stack is convincingly “period”, all black-painted, stamped metal faces with white celluloid dial cards and a hint of pre-historic, or at least pre-silicon electronics. There is one COM radio but it has a switch that lets you use it as two. There is one NAV radio and it doesn’t have that switch - one is all you get. There is a DME readout, but it’s a little tiny ovaloid analogue gauge with a logarithmic scale and damned few markings. There’s an ADF that’s pretty conventional in operation but with primitive controls (including a hand-crank) and readouts. There’s a transponder window for setting the squawk, but none of the other bells and whistles that transponders usually have. There’s a switch for hearing the NAV Morse ID, one for the marker beacons (and a corresponding light on the panel – just one) and one for the DME ID. Can you fly IFR with that stack – yup, if you’re good. Fortunately things don’t happen all that fast at 150 mph.

OK, with engines running and all the gauges in the green, we’re ready to taxi. Release the brakes and push the throttle to the recommended 17 inches of manifold pressure. I haven’t mentioned the sound yet. It’s good. It’s really, really good. I’ve recently invested in one of those devices that clamps to your chair and does to your butt what a sub-woofer does to your ears, but isn’t so annoying to the pets and other innocent bystanders. In about two seconds you’re utterly convinced that your chair has been placed between two pair of R-1830s…and the best is yet to come. AlphaSim also provides a pair of alternative sound files that have an increased level of turbocharger noise – even better, though my "ButtKicker" clamp-on doesn’t respond to that kind of noise, just the low tones and thumps and bumps. Of the dozen or so AC of all types I’ve tried it with so far, the physical effects rendered to the chair from the B-24 is the best yet. More immersion.

Cowl flap positions

For me, the test of software that models a big airplane is whether it feels big and heavy. Some don’t. If I wanted to fly a Cessna, I’d fly a Cessna. Taxiing this one feels right. The subtle inertia things are all working like they should – it coasts a little when you pull the throttles back, but not too much. It doesn’t do that wobble-and-waddle thing that some of the lighter AC do when they first begin to roll. It lags when you accelerate – the engine sounds come first, but the thrust takes a second or two to come on. The eye-point is right and the swing of the turns and such are convincing.

At the threshold, cowl flaps go to only half-open, flaps three notches out – 20° – hold the brakes and bring the throttles all the way up slowly. When you begin to flinch at the thought of being pelted with broken rivet-heads from the airframe, release the brakes. You’ll have about 50 inches of manifold pressure and she’ll begin to roll down the runway, ever so slowly. Did I mention you need a long runway? It does track fairly well; even with reality sliders at full, the torque and p-factor effects are easily manageable with just a touch of rudder. At 100 mph, set aside the magazine article you may have been reading, make sure the co-pilot hasn’t dozed off and begin to add back pressure to take some of the weight off the nose wheel. Some time later, when she’s darned good and ready and not a moment sooner, the nose will begin to come up. Care is needed to avoid dragging the tail-skid, which is bad form and doesn’t help at all with getting her off, but does keep the crew awake. Eventually, at around 125 mph she will begin to fly, unless of course you’ve already run out of runway.

There’s an interesting line in the take-off check list…

“Depress wheel brakes once airborne to stop wheels.”

The Liberator main gear fold outward when retracting (pretty neat to watch).

If the main wheels are still rolling about 100 mph and you flip the gear switch, bad things happen.

I won’t embarrass you by asking if you remember your high-school physics but the phenomenon of gyroscopic precession comes into play and a nose-down force results.

In heavily loaded real-world B-24s this was a serious problem if that simple check list step was overlooked.

Outward-Folding Main Gear

Five seconds after lift-off and clawing for the first few hundred feet of terrain clearance is a bad time for a nose-down input from any source. I tried to detect that effect in FS and couldn’t. I don’t think the sim engine is capable of modelling it. From my reading elsewhere, it was not subtle. None the less, our friends at AlphaSim kept that step in the check list to keep things real. My respects, gentlemen!

After that hair-raising take-off performance, once cleaned up, the AC climbs surprisingly well using the recommended speeds and settings, 170 mph, 46 in. Hg and 2,600 RPM. Leaning is critical as you climb but the turbochargers carry the day and power remains strong most of the way up to the service ceiling of 28,000 feet. Once there, 33 inches and 2,200 RPM yields a miserly 2,000 pph or so, which will take you a fair long ways in an AC that carries over 2,800 gallons of fuel. Fuel burn during the climb is another matter, of course and is anything but miserly. I learned to figure 2,000 lbs to climb, 2,000 per hour to cruise and a 2,000 lb reserve. It’s easy to remember, but be happy Uncle Sam is buying the gas.

Interestingly, the B-24 has cruise flaps, a setting that deployed them to 8°. They were prescribed for flight at or above 25,000 feet and airspeeds up to 170 mph indicated, though were especially important below155 mph. Everything, by the way, on the B-24 is, or should be, in mph, not in knots. The airspeed indicator is in mph and most of the technical references in the 27 page PDF manual (though not all) are too. The cruise flaps lower the nose slightly and make up the lift lost due to the lower angle of attack. The effect is to create the same amount of lift while slightly reducing overall drag. They work.

Cruise speeds of around 150 mph indicated result from the recommended settings. At 28,000 feet, that’s a GS of around 210 and isn’t so bad. You can push up the MP and go a little faster but the fuel burn is shocking.

For the purists who choose the realistic supercharger controls, AS includes an Excel spreadsheet that allows balancing the throttle and supercharger settings to achieve the desired engine power at a given altitude – a nice touch.

The included autopilot looks nice (rustic, but nice) but isn’t really capable of much except tracking a heading and holding an altitude.

It does those very well. The OBI needle(s) respond to the radio but the AP doesn’t seem to be capable of tracking anything except in heading mode.

It’s not as bad as it may sound and is probably relatively realistic.

Descents are a protracted affair and need to be planned fairly well. A rate up to 1,000 fpm is comfortable and airspeed is easily controlled. Get it a little too much nose down and things can begin to diverge on you. My hard-earned advice is, manage it, don’t chase it.


Approaches are good once you come to grips with the fact that the airspeed indicator is in mph, not in knots and your speed isn’t really as high as the numbers on the meter might suggest. You should keep your brain in the loop at all times. The Lib is well behaved in the approach; gear creates a little drag but not much pitch change. Flaps do affect pitch in the expected fashion, but not severely. The AC reacts to inputs in a staid manner, just as if it really weighs 50,000 lbs or more. Did you remember to retract the ball turret? If you think dragging the tail skid is dramatic…

110 mph is a good approach speed and slowing to 100 over the threshold is advisable. A little flare is needed to ease the descent rate, but remember that tail skid – too much nose up is not going to make you popular with the crew chief later. If you’re landing back where you took off and you fly the approach by the numbers, you’re not going to have to worry about runway length. If you had enough pavement to get it off you’ll have a lot more than you need to get it stopped, even if you’re still heavy.

AlphaSim did a great job on this one, though it’s no more than I’ve come to expect from them. They are very good at choosing aircraft types that capture the imagination and then making them seem real. That, after all, is the ultimate compliment for a simulator add-on like this – to be able to say it seems real. This one surely does.

I was able to manage realistic medium-range cargo mission profiles at high gross weights in IMC conditions and could have done much longer ones. Navigation with the limited and primitive radio gear does require a little different technique and a little more work but is not problematic. The GPS is available, but not necessary. With some practice it was not a difficult AC to fly at all, though takes a little familiarization if you’ve been hanging out in glass cockpits with ITT gauges.

This one is not just eye candy that leaves you short on the things that make an AC rewarding to spend time with in FS. It has everything you need to fly it realistically, either in today’s ATC environment or in re-creating the real-world missions flown by the heroes of the 1940s. Fly it heavy, high and far and experience a little of what they did. It’s an eye-opener. Set the weather for a 5,000 ft, 9/10 overcast, launch from RAF Shipdham and see if you can find Berlin without using the NAV or ADF or the GPS (Navigator to Pilot: Sir, …what’s a GPS?)

The Liberator goes for around $46 USD or a bit under £24 GBP. It’s well worth it.

John Allard

AlphaSim home
B-24 Liberator product page Support Forum


I’d like to make a dedication to a family member. My father-in-law, Technical Sergeant Raymond F. Showers, USAAF (dec.) served in B-24s as a radioman-gunner. He served with the 15th Air Force flying from bases in southern Italy. Missions were typically against targets in northern Italy, Yugoslavia and sometimes, across the Alps to Austria or southern Germany.

He and thousands of others like him from many countries wrote checks to their government in an amount up to and including their lives, figuratively speaking. In a lot of cases those checks were cashed and many of those brave young men didn’t come home. Fortunately, my father-in-law did.

To him and his peers, that “greatest generation”, I dedicate this article. I hope there are B-24s for them to fly wherever it is they’ve all gone – they loved them.

Davis-Monthan Army Air Base, 1944 – They Were So Young!


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