The Army Air Corps ordered 46 C-46s in July 1940 and received the first completed aircraft two years later in July 1942. Because of the urgent need for large capacity cargo aircraft, only the first 25 aircraft were built as C-46s, the rest were modified on the assembly line and designated as C-46As.
The C-46A had improved versions of the Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp radial engine and had a significantly strengthened cargo floor. The new floor increased the load capacity of the C-46A to 15,000 pounds, 5,000 pounds more than the C-46. Besides hauling cargo, the interior could be configured with troop seats for up to 50 men or fitted with 33 litters and used as an air ambulance. As a medivac aircraft, up to four medical attendants could be carried to care for the litter patients while in flight.
The Air Corps ordered about 2,000 C-46As and eventually received 1,491 -A models. To expedite production Curtiss split production between three of its plants. The greatest numbers of planes, 1039, were built at the main plant in Buffalo, N.Y. Twelve aircraft were built at the Curtiss St. Louis plant before production was transferred to the Louisville, Ky., plant, which built 438 C-46As. A license to build 500 C-46As was given to the aircraft division of the Higgins Boat Co. in New Orleans, La., but after completing only two aircraft, the contract was canceled.
Because of a limited initial flight test program, design changes and improvements were incorporated into aircraft on the assembly line. To distinguish planes with different sets of design improvements, Curtiss used block numbers in addition to the model number -- a concept still used for modern military aircraft.
TECHNICAL NOTES: Engines: Two Pratt & Whitney R-2800-51 Double Wasp radials of 2,000 hp each Maximum speed: 270 mph Cruising speed: 173 mph Range: 3,150 miles Service ceiling: 24,500 ft. Span: 108 ft. 0 in. Length: 76 ft. 4 in. Height: 21 ft. 9 in. Weight: 49,600 lbs. maximum gross weight Crew: Four (pilot, co-pilot, flight engineer and radio operator) Passenger capacity: 38 to 50 depending on configuration Serial numbers: 1,039 C-46As built at the Curtiss Buffalo, N.Y., plant (S/N 41-5184 to 41-5204; 41-12280 to 41-12433; 41-24640 to 41-24775; 42-3564 to 42-3683; 42-60942 to 42-61091; 42-96529 to 42-96828; 42-101036 to 42-101201; 42-107280 to 42-107399); 438 C-46As built at the Curtiss Louisville, Ky., plant (S/N 43-46955 to 43-47304; 43-47315 to 43-47402); 12 C-46As built at the Curtiss St. Louis, Mo., plant (S/N 43-46953 to 43-46954; 43-47305 to 43-47314); two C-46As built by the aircraft divisions of the Higgins Boat Co. in New Orleans, La. (S/N 43-43339 and 43-43340); 498 canceled (S/N 43-43341 to 43-43838 canceled)
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