The C-46 Commando flew the Hump, a dangerous, high-altitude supply mission over the Himalayas.
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.