Curtiss C-46 Commando


Everyone knows about the Douglas C-47 Skytrain (military version of the DC-3) but do you know about the Curtiss Wright C-46 Commando? The C-46 actually made its first flight on March 26, 1940 compared to the C-47 first flight on December 23, 1941 (although the DC-3 maiden flight was December 17, 1935) and at the time was considered the largest and heaviest twin engined airplane in the world.
The Curtiss CW-20 prototype which would become the C-46, was designed in 1937 by George A. Page Jr., the chief aircraft designer at Curtiss-Wright. Originally powered by two 1,700 hp (1,300 kW) R-2600-C14-BA2 Wright Twin Cyclones, the C-46′s were re-engined with the more powerful 2,000 hp Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp radial engines. With these engines the C-46 was capable of carrying a substantial payload, and could fly well on one engine. (An empty aircraft single engine climb rate was about 200–300 ft/minute.)
The C-46′s cargo volume (twice that of the C-47), three times the payload (14,331 vs. 5000 lbs.), large cargo doors, powerful engines and long range made it suitable for the vast distances of the Pacific island and China-Burma-India theater “The Hump” campaigns.
The airplane had its share of mechanical nightmares and was costly to operate earning it a reputation among pilots as “the flying coffin” and among mechanics as “a plumber’s nightmare”. Self sealing fuel tanks were never installed on C-46′s and the wings were never vented which allowed fuel to accumulate in the wing roots causing some airplanes to catch on fire. Standard 4 bladed, Curtiss-Electric electrically controlled pitched propellers proved to be problematic on the C-46 but eventually the problems were solved and the airplane continued to be employed in the China-Burma-India theater throughout the war years.

Specifications Curtiss C-46 Commando

• Crew: 4
• Capacity: 40 troops or 30 stretcher patients or 15,000 lb (6,800 kg) cargo
• Length: 76 ft 4 in (23.27 m)
• Wingspan: 108 ft 0 in (32.91 m)
• Height: 21 ft 9 in (6.62 m)
• Empty weight: 30,669 lb (14,700 kg)
• Max takeoff weight: 45,000 lb (20,412 kg)
• Powerplant: 2 × Pratt & Whitney R-2800-51 two-row 18-cylinder radial engines, 2,000 hp (1,492 kW) each
• Number built: 3181
• Variants: 29

Performance

• Maximum speed: 270 mph (235 knots, 435 km/h) at 15,000 ft (4,600 m)
• Cruise speed: 173 mph (150 knots, 278 km/h)
• Range: 3,150 mi (2,739 nm) 5,069 km at 173 mph (278 km/h)
• Service ceiling: 24,500 ft (7,468 m)
• Rate of climb: 1,175 ft/min