C46 - Two 1495kW (2000hp) Pratt & Whitney R280034 Double Wasp piston radial engines driving three blade constant speed propellers. C46R - Two 1565kW (2100hp) Pratt & Whitney R2800 C or CA series radial pistons.
C46 - Typical cruising speed 300km/h (162kt). Range with 2585kg (5700lb) payload 1880km (1017nm). C46R - Max speed 435km/h (235kt), max cruising speed 378km/h (204kt). Service ceiling 22,000ft. Range with max fuel 2897km (1564nm).
C46 - Operating empty 14,970kg (33,000lb), max payload 5265kg (11,630lb), max takeoff 21,772kg (48,000lb). C46R - Empty 13,290kg (29,300lb), max takeoff 22,680kg (50,000lb).
Flightcrew of two pilots and optional flight engineer. Typical accommodation for freight, but in an airliner configuration can seat 36, or in military configuration 50 troops.
3182 Commandos built for US armed forces (as the C46 for the USAAF and R5C for the USN). Many hundreds subsequently converted for civil service. Approximately 16 remain in service as of late 1998.
The Curtiss Commando came into widespread civilian service as both an airliner and a freighter after a large number were built as transports for the US military during World War 2, although the original Curtiss design was intended as an airliner.
Originally intended as a competitor to the highly successful Douglas DC-3, which was the preeminent airliner of the time, the Curtiss CW20 was designed to operate on routes of up to 1000km (540nm), which at the time accounted for 90% of the US domestic airline system. The CW-20 featured two 1270kW (1700hp) Wright R2600 Twin Cyclone radial engines, twin vertical tails and a pressurised double lobe, or `double bubble' fuselage. Accommodation would have been for 36 passengers plus four crew.
Later in timing than the DC-3, the CW20 first flew on March 26 1940. In July that year an impressed US Army Air Force ordered 20 unpressurised CW20s, which it named the C46 Commando. The first production aircraft was completed in May 1942, by which time the powerplant choice had been switched to P&W R2800s, and the first deliveries to the US Army occurred that July.
Initially the C46 was troubled with reliability problems in military service, but these were soon overcome and the Commando proved to be a useful transport with its relatively cavernous freight hold.
A proposed postwar commercial version was the CW20E, but it failed to attract customer interest and thus all Commandos to enter civilian service were ex military aircraft. Most were purchased by American operators for freight work. One postwar version though was the Riddles Airlines C46R which had more powerful engines and better performance. Thirty or so were converted.
In late 1998 five Commandos were believed to be operational in Alaska, four in Canada, and as many as seven in Bolivia.