DescriptionThe Curtiss C-46 Commando is a twin-engine transport aircraft derived from the Curtiss CW-20 pressurised high-altitude airliner design.
Early press reports used the name 'Condor III' but the Commando name was in use by early 1942 in company publicity. It was used as a military transport during World War II by the United States Army Air Forces and also the U.S. Navy/Marine Corps, which used the designation R5C. The C-46 served in a similar role to its Douglas-built counterpart, the C-47 Skytrain, but it was not as extensively produced as the latter.
After World War II, a few surplus C-46 aircraft were briefly used in their originally designated role as passenger airliners, but the glut of surplus C-47s dominated the marketplace and the C-46 was soon relegated to primarily cargo duty. The type continued in U.S. Air Force service in a secondary role until 1968. The C-46 continues in operation as a rugged cargo transport for Arctic and remote locations with its service life extended into the 21st century. Two C-46 Commandos are used by Joe McBryan's Buffalo Airways hauling freight out of Yellowknife Alaska.
The prototype for what would become the C-46, the Curtiss CW-20, was designed in 1937 by George A. Page Jr., the chief aircraft designer at Curtiss-Wright. The CW-20 was a private venture intended to compete with the four-engined Douglas DC-4 and Boeing 307 Stratoliner by the introduction of a new standard in pressurized airliners. The CW-20 had a patented fuselage conventionally referred to as a "figure-eight" (or "double-bubble") which enabled it to better withstand the pressure differential at high altitudes. This was done by having the sides of the fuselage creased at the level of the floor that not only separated the two portions but shared in the stress of each, rather than just supporting itself. The main spar of the wing could pass through the bottom section which was mainly intended for cargo without intruding on the passenger upper compartment. A decision to utilize a twin-engine design instead of a four-engine configuration was considered viable if sufficiently powerful engines were available, allowing for lower operating costs and a less complex structure.
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- Crew: 4 or 5 Capacity: 40 troops or 30 stretcher patients or 15,000 lb (6,800 kg) cargo
- 76 ft 4 in (23.27 m)
- 108 ft 0 in (32.92 m)
- 21 ft 9 in (6.63 m)
- Wing Area:
- 1,360 sq ft (126 sq m)
- Empty Weight:
- 30,669 lb (13,911 kg)
- Gross weight: 45,000 lb (20,412 kg)
- 2 × Pratt & Whitney R-2800-51 Double Wasp 18-cylinder air-cooled radial piston engines, 2,000 hp (1,500 kW) each
- Maximum speed: 270 mph (430 km/h, 230 kn) at 15,000 ft (4,600 m)
- Cruise Speed:
- 173 mph (278 km/h, 150 kn)
- 3,150 mi (5,070 km, 2,740 nmi) at 173 mph (150 kn; 278 km/h) ; 1,000 mi (870 nmi; 1,600 km) at 237 mph (206 kn; 381 km/h)
- Rate of Climb:
- Time to altitude: 10,000 ft (3,000 m) in 17 minutes 24 seconds
- Service Ceiling:
- 24,500 ft (7,500 m)