C-46 Commando

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C-46 Commando

Post  F4U Corsair on Sun Oct 23, 2011 9:35 pm

Here is an interesting transport that I had never heard about until today: http://www.aviation-history.com/curtiss/c46.htm

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Re: C-46 Commando

Post  Spitfire on Mon Oct 31, 2011 6:40 am

It certainly looks nice. Can you tell us a bit more about it?
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Re: C-46 Commando

Post  F4U Corsair on Tue Nov 01, 2011 8:10 pm

Here is the less technical part of the article I posted the link for:

[/quote]Initially, the C-46 was used to ferry cargo across the South Atlantic. It also saw some use as a glider tug in the European theatre. However, the C-46 became famous for its use in the China-Burma-India (CBI) Theater, flying supplies over Himalaya Mountains, otherwise known as “the Hump”.

By March of 1942, the Japanese had control of nearly all of the supply routes through the area. Consequently all of the supplies needed by Chiang Kai-Shek and Claire Chennault (who in June of that year became General Chennault when his American Volunteer Group was absorbed into the U.S. Army Air Forces), including aviation gasoline had to be flown in to China. Some of the terrain in the area rises to over 14,000 feet. The route was initially flown by C-47’s that were equipped with two stage superchargers, and C-87’s, which were cargo versions of the B-24.

The C-87 retained the long range and high altitude operating capability of its B-24 cousin. It also retained the B-24's basic fuselage, the interior of which was 33 feet long, 4 feet wide and 8 feet high. While the C-87 could lift heavier loads than the C-46 and featured more “head room”, the narrow bomber-type fuselage made it difficult to carry large cargo items, even with the addition of a cargo door.

Perhaps the most famous cargo aircraft of World War II, the C-47’s cargo area was wider than the C-87’s, but its maximum loaded weight was only 26,000 pounds.
On the other hand, the cargo area in the C-46 was 48 feet long, 9 feet, 10 inches wide, and 6 feet, 8 inches high. Its maximum loaded weight was 45,000 pounds (which could be pushed to 50,000 pounds).

Not surprisingly, the C-46 became the mainstay of the CBI cargo route because of its combination of range, payload, and high altitude capability.

Even with a capable cargo airplane such as the C-46, the Hump route was fraught with danger. There were enemy planes to contend with, (legend has it that a C-46 crew member shot a Zero down by firing his rifle though an open cockpit window.), the departure airfields in India were hot and humid, and the monsoon season was a killer. Literally. The demand for supplies was so great, that pilots were expected to fly under conditions that would normally ground airplanes based elsewhere. Accidents were common. Water leaked into cockpits through gaps in the window panes. In addition, navigation aids were scarce, and the airplanes were forced to operate near their limits. Even in an airplane such as the C-46, which was designed to fly at high altitudes, high altitude flying was a strain on engines, equipment and aircrews. Superchargers and/or engines failed on occasion, equipment malfunctioned, and keeping a non-pressurized cockpit heated was a challenge. The four hour flight under such dangerous conditions exhausted pilots and aircrew.

Not to mention the fact that the airplanes were often overloaded. If all of the foregoing wasn’t bad enough, consider the fact that the C-46’s Curtiss Electric propellers had a nasty tendency to suddenly shift into flat pitch by themselves. This was due, in part, to humidity corroding the wiring associated with the propellers.

Despite the hazards and losses, the C-46 had flown hundreds of tons of cargo by the time operations ended in November of 1945. [quote]
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