|C46 N7848B, named Dumbo, is one of two used by Everts Air Cargo for freight haulage in Alaska, with sister company Everts Air Fuel using a further two for fuel transportation.|
Curtiss C46 Commando originated as the CW20
airliner which was envisaged as a competitor to the Douglas DC3.
The prototype, the CW20T, flew for the first time on March 26, 1940 but by then American thoughts were already turning to Second World War production and in July that year the US Army ordered 40 unpressurised cargo versions, designating them the C46 and naming them Commando. The Army also bought the prototype CW20 as the C55 but this was soon passed on the British Overseas Aircraft Corporation.
Both the CW20 and C46 were distinguished by a double bubble fuselage and a streamlined nose. The CW20 could carry 36 passengers in the upper lobe and 3,719kg (8,200lb) of cargo in the lower. Two Wright Cyclone R-2600 radial engines were installed, each developing 1,700hp.
The first C46 was delivered to the US Army in July 1942 and was little different to the CW20, only a reduction in cabin windows being immediately obvious. The C46A had a reinforced fuselage to enable a heavier cargo load. It also introduced a larger cargo door on the port side.
A total of 3,182 C46s were delivered to the US Army, with the type serving in all theatres. It became particularly important on the so-called "hump" route over the Himalayas between India and China.
When peace returned Curtiss tried to market a new passenger verison, the CW20E, but the thousands of war surplus transports on the market snuffed out this project. Indeed, even war surplus C46s did not prove very popular and the majority found employment as freighters.
Nonetheless, the tough airframe found particular favour in Latin America, where more than 600 were still operating in 1959.
Today the type continues to fly as a freighter and fuel transporter in small numbers in Alaska, in the United States, and Canada.