Tuesday, March 15, 2011

C-46 Commando

Always overshadowed by its C-47 stablemate, the C-46 was actually more technically advanced in many ways than the Douglas aircraft, and gave equally sterling service all over the world. The CW-20 airliner design from which the C-46 sprang was intended as a higher-flying more commodius competitor to the DC-3, with a "double bubble" fuselage being used in anticipation of eventually using pressurization. First flown in March 1940, the CW-20T prototype differed in a number of ways from the eventual production C-46. being powered by R-2600s and having a twin tail. A single tail was later retrofitted, and the CW-20T briefly became the USAAF's C-55 before being sold on to BOAC.

Curtiss C-46 Commando
C-46D 44-78018, on display at the National Museum of the US Air Force. A total of 1410 D-models were built, having an added door on the port side of the fuselage. This particular aircraft was retired in 1968.
The threat of war helped derail the CW-20 program, but it did pave the way for the CW-20B military transport derivative, designated by the USAF as the C-46 Commando. The Commando would make its reputation flying over the "Hump" - supporting Allied forces in Burma and China from bases in India. Airfields were austere in the extreme, degenerating even in good weather into ribbons of mud. Navigational aids were next to nonexistent, and crews had to take their overloaded aircraft over some of the most isolated and rugged terrain on the planet.

The Commando remained in service throughout the Korean War, and USAF Air Commando forces were still equipped with C-46s during the early stages of the Vietnam war. The final C-46s were not retired from the USAF inventory until 1968.

 C-46 Commando engine photo
C-46 Commando nacelle

C-46 Leakin Lena model - note stepped nose
C-46 models


C-46E: 17 aircraft with stepped windscreens

C-46F: Squared off wingtips

C-46G: Solitary example with C-46F type wingtips and a stepped windscreen. This aircraft was later rebuilt with a GE TG-100 turboprop in the starboard nacelle as the XC-113, but no flight trials in this configuration were conducted.
XC-46L/CW-20H: Three aircraft powered by R-3350s.


Photo: CW-20 fuselage under construction. Popular Aviation December 1939  p.54

Photo: CW-20 in metal finish, and with twin tails. Popular Aviation April 1940  p.61

Photo: Slick Airways C-46 preparing for takeoff. Flying August 1949  p.21

Photo: "Braniff Gets High-Powered C-46" Aviation Week December 5, 1955 p.125 N1386N with R-2800-C engines.

Photo: US Forest Service C-46 N6246  Air Classics May 1973 p.67

Color profiles of the CW-20T as G-AGDI, C-46s of the Chinese Nationalists, Lufthansa, Aeropesca Columbia, and a postwar R5C-1. Air International June 1986  p.302

Stephen Harding "Confederate Commando"  Aeroplane Monthly July 1989. A look at C-46F China Doll of the Confederate Air Force.

Photo: Nationalist Chinese C-46 at Kai Tak. Aeroplane Monthly July 1989 p.421

Photo: Rear quarter view of CW-20 G-AGDI. Aeroplane Monthly October 1989 p.602

Photo: C-46D at MASDC w/o engines. Warbirds International October 2000 p.31

John M. Andrade Latin American Military Aviation  includes a photo of Bolivian C-46 TAM-29 and Brazilian aircraft #2088

Color profile: Rich International C-46F N5370N.  Complete Encyclopedia of World Aircraft, edited by David Donald.

Scale Models:
Williams Brothers made a 1/72 scale Commando,, while Platz issued a 1/144 scale C-46D
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