YouTube – Curtiss C-46
P&W R2800 radials
2 x 2,100 h.p. ea.
76 ft. 4 in.
The Curtiss C-46, called “Commando” was the largest twin engine aircraft to fly U.S. military operations during the Second World War. The airplane was used to transport troops and haul cargo.
The twin engine airplane was originally intended as a civil airliner, designed for up to 36 seats in a pressurized cabin. However, the U.S. military acquired every Curtiss C-46 when World War II broke out.
The military airplane differed from the civil versions in having larger doors and a reinforced deck for the handling of heavy cargo.
With upgrades, the Curtiss C-46 became the major cargo hauling aircraft of the Pacific Theatre. It is probably best known for its missions flying supplies over the Himalaya Mountains between Burma and China, known as the “Hump.” This was primarily in support of the Flying Tigers and the Chinese Army. The airplane also saw limited action over Germany deploying paratroopers.
The Curtiss C-46 design was unique for a transport aircraft of the time. Its fuselage was shaped to enhance high altitude pressurized flight. Powerful engines combined with extensive streamlining enabled it to cruise at higher speeds and altitudes, and carry higher payloads, than other twin engine transports of the time. The shortcoming of its short fuselage and high profile is its difficulty to fly and land in strong cross winds.
The Curtiss C-46 has had a long and distinguished career. After World War II it served in the Korean and Vietnam wars. It remained deployed with the American military into 1968.
A small number of the Curtiss C-46 aircraft continue to fly today, mostly for cargo transport companies around the world. A total of over 3,000 Curtiss C-46 aircraft of all types were produced.