The big Curtiss C-46 Commando transport of World War II was a milestone in air transport. With a wingspan greater than that of a four-engine B-17, the C-46 used a pair of R-2800 radial engines to get it aloft at a gross weight of 56,000 pounds. It was the largest twin-engine aircraft in the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II.
Military Commandos hauled troops and carried vehicles and light aircraft, loaded through a large aperture in the left side of the fuselage.
The C-46 in popular literature has been viewed as a maintenance-prone airlifter when compared with the smaller Douglas C-47. And yet the Commando’s weight-lifting and altitude performance made it the star of the ongoing Allied airlift over the Himalayas in the China-Burma-India theater of operations.
Peace in 1945 cut short the production of C-46s after more than 3,000 were built. The War Assets Administration (WAA) worked with the Air Force to make C-46s available to civilian operators.[Read more…]