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History: In March 1940, the
Curtiss-Wright company first flew a new 36-seat commercial airliner design, designated the
CW-20. The US Army became interested in the aircraft for its
cargo/transport capabilities, and ordered a militarized version, the C-46 Commando, be
produced, utilizing two 2,000-hp Pratt & Whitney R-2800-43 engines. The Commando
entered service with the USAAF in July 1942, becoming the largest and heaviest twin-engine
aircraft in the Air Corps.
The first major variant to appear was the C-46A,
which had a large cargo door in the left rear fuselage, 40 folding seats, a strengthened
cargo floor, and higher-altitude capable engines. This last feature was to become
important when the C-46 began flying cargo "over the Hump" from India to China.
The C-46 was found to have much better load-hauling capabilities than the C-47 at the
altitudes involved. The Commando also served in the Pacific theater, where it moved troops
and supplies from island to island, contributing to the defeat of Japan. In the European
Theater, C-46s served as glider tugs, towing two CG-4 gliders at a time across the Rhine
Other versions of the aircraft included the R5C-1
(US Navy/Marine Corps designation); the C-46D (personnel version
with an extra door on the right side); C-46E (utility version
with C-46A doors and a stepped windscreen); and C-46F (cargo
model with doors on both sides and square wingtip ends).
Well over 3,000 Commandos were built, and they
remained in service through the Korean War. A few even served during the first years of
the war in Vietnam. Today, a small number continue to fly in various capacities around the
world, mostly as freighters in Central and South America.
Dumbo; T-Cat (C-46s modified to U.S. Civil Aviation transport-category
Engines: Two 2,000-hp Pratt &
Whitney R-2800-51 radial piston engines
Weight: Empty 30,000 lbs., Max
Takeoff 45,000 lbs.
Wing Span: 108ft. 0in.
Length: 76ft. 4in.
Height: 21ft. 9in.
Number Still Flying:
C-46 Cockpit Photo:
(Click for larger)
Network C-46 Accident Index
Bob Tilden's Plane Talk
column: "Art Deco"
CAF Ghost Squadron C-46 Page
C-46 Photo Page
Remember the Curtiss C-46 Commando
USAF Museum C-46
By Graham Robson
112 Pages, Paperback
Published 2002 by Motorbooks
celebrates the few remaining classic airliners that have been lovingly
restored and nurtured by their owners and operators.
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