The Curtiss-Wright Corporation began development of a 36-seat airliner called the CW-20 in 1936. When the aircraft flew for the first time in March of 1940, it caught the attention of the U.S. Army. A militarized version, the C-46 Commando, was ordered and went into service in 1942. It was the largest and heaviest twin-engine aircraft operated by the Air Corps. The aircraft had a double-lobed fuselage cross section with the cargo floor acting as the junction, providing high strength.
The C-46A incorporated a large cargo door in the left rear fuselage, a strengthened cargo floor, 40 folding seats, and high-altitude engines. It was capable of carrying a heavier cargo load than the C-47, to a higher altitude. This capability was put to good use in the China-Burma-India Theater, where the Commando was used to carry supplies into China "over the Hump" of the Himalayan mountains from India.
C-46s also served in the Pacific and European theaters of World War 2. The U. S. Marine Corps, and later the Navy, also operated the Commando under the designation R5C-1. The Commando soldiered on into the Korean War and was even used, briefly, at the beginning of the Vietnam War by the 1st Air Commando Group. Several were also pressed into civilian service as cargo transports and airliners.
More than 3,000 C-46s were built, of which about 100 survive today. Of these, more than 50 worldwide are still flying. Planes of Fame Air Museum's Commando is in long- term storage pending restoration (photo not of the museum's aircraft).
Manufacturer: Curtiss-Wright Corporation
Model: C-46A Commando
Max T/O Weight: 45,000 lb.
Span: 108 ft. 0 in.
Length: 76 ft. 4 in.
Height: 21 ft. 9 in.
Maximum Speed: 270 mph
Cruise Speed: 173 mph
Rate of Climb: 800 ft/min
Power Plant: 2 × Pratt & Whitney R2800-51 Double Wasp 18-cylinder air-cooled radial piston engines, 2,000 hp each