Today In Aviation History – March 26, 1940 – First Flight Curtiss C-46 Commando

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March 26, 1940.  First flight of the Curtiss C-46 Commando.

The Curtiss C-46 Commando is a transport aircraft originally derived from a commercial high-altitude airliner design. It was instead used as a military transport during World War II by the United States Army Air Forces as well as the U.S. Navy/Marine Corps under the designation R5C. Known to the men who flew them as “The Whale,” the “Curtiss Calamity,” the “plumber’s nightmare”, and among ATC crews, the “flying coffin”, the C-46 served a similar role as its counterpart, the Douglas C-47 Skytrain, but was not as extensively produced. At the time of its production, the C-46 was the largest twin-engine aircraft in the world, and the largest and heaviest twin-engine aircraft to see service in World War II.

After World War II, a few surplus C-46 aircraft were briefly used in their original role as passenger airliners, but the glut of surplus C-47s dominated the marketplace with the C-46 soon relegated to primarily cargo duty. The type continued in U.S. Air Force service in a secondary role until 1968. However, the C-46 continues in operation as a rugged cargo transport for Arctic and remote locations with its service life extended into the 21st century including Buffalo Airways of “Ice Pilots NWT” fame.

Pictured above is “The Tinker Belle” at Oshkosh in 2012. This huge airplane will also be appearing again at this year’s Waterloo Air Show.

(info from Wikipedia)