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Curtiss C-46 Commando


The largest and heaviest twin-engine aircraft to see service with the Army Air Forces, this transport gained its greatest fame in airlifting supplies over "the Hump" (the Himalaya Mountains) in the China-Burma-India theater in World War II, although it saw action in every theater.
The C-46 began its career as a pressurized, 36-passenger airliner with twin rudders, but the Army saw greater utility for the aircraft as a transport. The AAF bought the prototype in 1941, modified it to have a single fin, and designated it C-55. Demand for the C-46 grew rapidly, and manufacturing began at the new Curtiss plants in Louisville, Ky., and Saint Louis, Mo. The aircraft division of Higgins Industries (the New Orleans, La.–based boatbuilder that constructed most of the landing craft used in World War II) was given a contract for 500 aircraft, but only two C-46As were completed. A total of 1,490 C-46As were built, which included 160 R5Cs for the Marine Corps. The other major variant was the C-46D, with 1,410 aircraft built. The C-46 could carry more payload than its more famous stablemate, the C-47, and it offered better high-altitude performance, which was one of the reasons it was used so extensively in the CBI. C-46 crews began flying the hazardous air route over the Himalayas in 1943 after the Japanese closed the Burma Road. However, as a result of the CBI's harsh conditions, the type had a relatively high loss rate, and maintenance was a problem. In Europe, the C-46 was used to drop paratroopers during the Rhein River crossing in March 1945. The C-46 could tow two CG-4 gliders. The C-46A, D, and F models were used in Korea, and a few aircraft were used by Air Force Special Air Warfare Center in the early years of the Vietnam War.
C-46s were in limited Air Force service as late as 1969. Many went into civilian hands after World War II, and a fair number are still in use today.
General characteristics C-46A
Primary function transport
Contractors Curtiss-Wright Corp., Higgins Aircraft Co.
Power plant Two Pratt&Whitney R-2800-51 Double Wasp 18-cylinder, twin-row radials engines
Thrust 2x 2,000 HP 2x 1,492 kW
Wingspan 108 ft 32.91 m
Length 76.3 ft 23.26 m
Height 21.7 ft 6.62 m
Wingarea 1,360 sq ft 126.34 sq m
Weight empty 30,000 lb 13608 kg
max. 45,000 lb 20412 kg
Speed 270 mph 434 km/h
Ceiling 24,510 ft 7,470 m
Range 3,150 miles 5,070 km
Freight 10,000 lb (4,535 kg) or 40 seats
Crew Four
First Flight March 26, 1940
Date deployed 1943
Cost $233,000
Number built 3,182

Jirka Wagner

 

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Last updated 01.01.2017