By 1968, the Indian Air Force’s fleet of refurbished B-24 Liberators had outlived their usefulness. The IAF began phasing out their B-24s in favor of the newer jet-powered Canberra bombers. Although most of the retired bombers would go to scrap, a few were offered to museums in India and North America. Pima Air Museum in Tucson, Arizona and Canada Aviation Museum in Rockcliffe, Ontario received offers for donations of retired IAF Liberators; the museums could have the planes if they paid to fly them back to North America.
To the Canadian team dispatched to India, the mission of flying the plane would be a rare and memorable encounter with an “ancient aircraft.” Because of the fuel capacity of the plane, the route back to North America would follow the old routes of Allied aircraft during World War II. The plane flew across the Middle East, over Europe, and across the North Atlantic to North America. To comply with modern regulations, the bomber carried updated radios for the flight across Europe. Operation Longhaul, the ferry flight from India to Canada, covered twelve days and 10,500 miles.1
The IAF’s B-24s had come full-circle. When the Allied forces left India in 1945, the bombers were worthless to them. Defying the Allies’ expectations, the Indians got another twenty years of use out of the bombers. By 1968, the bombers were no longer useful to the IAF, so it discarded them. But now, B-24s were had found a new use back in the West. The aircraft no longer had any value as bombers, either in India or the West. Instead, they would be museum exhibits.
Kevin Lynch argues in Wasting Away that societies should not stop wasting; rather, they should learn to waste well. When an object is no longer of any use, it should not be either thrown blindly away or kept to gather dust and take up space. Instead, old objects should be put to new uses; this is what Lynch means by wasting well.2 By Lynch’s standards, the IAF’s B-24s were wasted well, twice. First they were wasted by the Allies and picked up by the Indians, who used them longer. Then the Indians wasted the bombers, and they were picked up by the Americans and Canadians, whose forebears had discarded them in India a generation earlier.