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List of accidents and incidents involving the Curtiss C-46 Commando
C-46 Commando
Wartime photo, USAAF

The Curtiss C-46 Commando was 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," or the "Curtiss Calamity," [1] the C-46 served a similar role as its counterpart, the Douglas C-47 Skytrain, but was not as extensively produced.

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.[2]

Accidents and incidentsEdit

Like every other major type in long service and operation, accidents and incidents have been recorded that have substantially reduced the numbers flying. The following list is typical of such a record of operational use.

  • 20 September 1944: A nighttime training mission both leaving and returning to Syracuse Army Air Base went missing. It was eventually discovered to have flown directly into the NE face of Blue Ridge Mountain near Speculator, NY. All three servicemen perished.[3]
  • 12 October 1945: While trying to navigate their approach to Beijing Nanyuan Airport, a USAAF C-46 (carrying four US crew and 55 Chinese soldiers) struck a radio antenna and crashed, killing all on board.
  • 10 December 1946: A US Marine Corps R5C en route from San Diego to Seattle crashed into South Tahoma Glacier on the side of Mount Rainier in Washington, killing all 32 US Marines on board. The pilot was flying entirely by instruments in severe weather and it was determined that wind had moved the aircraft off course. At the time, this accident was the worst in U.S. aviation history.[4]
  • 2 August 1949: a Varig Curtiss C-46AD-10-CU Commando registration PP-VBI operating a flight from São Paulo-Congonhas Airport to Porto Alegre made an emergency landing on rough terrain near the location of Jaquirana, approximately 20 minutes before landing in Porto Alegre, following fire on the cargo hold. Of the 36 passengers and crew aboard, five died.[5][6]
  • 5 June 1950: a Westair Transport Curtiss C-46-F-1-CU Commando registration N1248N operating a flight from San Juan, PR to Wilmington, NC ditched into the Atlantic 300 miles east of Melbourne, Florida due to failure of both engines. It sank in one of the deepest areas of the Atlantic and could not be recovered. Of the 65 passengers and crew aboard, 28 died. Failure of both engines for reasons unknown.[7]
  • 29 July 1951: a Lóide Aéreo Nacional Curtiss C-46A-10-CU registration CB-39, flying from Cochabamba to Rio de Janeiro, probably operating a delivery ferry flight still bearing the Bolivian registration number, crashed on takeoff. All seven occupants died.[8]
  • 24 May 1952: a Lóide Aéreo Nacional Curtiss C-46D-15-CU Commando registration PP-LDE during take-off from Manaus-Ponta Pelada stalled when trying to return to the airport following an engine failure. It crashed into the Rio Negro. The 6 occupants died.[9][10]
  • 7 January 1953: A Curtiss C-46F-1-CU Commando registration N1648M carrying 37 Korean War Veterans and 3 civilian crew members crashed due to poor weather conditions and icing.[11]
  • 20 August 1953: an Itaú Curtiss C-46A-60-CK Commando registration PP-ITD crashed and caught fire during an emergency landing at Corumbá. Three crew members died and one survived.[12][13]
  • 4 June 1954: a Varig Curtiss C-46A-45-CU Commando registration PP-VBZ operating a cargo flight between São Paulo-Congonhas Airport and Porto Alegre crashed during take-off from São Paulo. All crew of 3 died.[14][15]
  • 3 April 1955: an Itaú Curtiss C-46A-60-CK Commando registration PP-ITG struck a hill two miles short of the runway while on an instrument approach to Vitória. The crew of three died.[16]
  • 7 April 1957: a Varig Curtiss C-46A-45-CU Commando registration PP-VCF operating a flight from Bagé to Porto Alegre crashed during takeoff from Bagé, following a fire developed in the left main gear wheel well and consequent technical difficulties. All 40 passengers and crew died.[17][18]
  • 31 May 1958: a cargo Paraense Curtiss C-46D-15-CU Commando registration PP-BTB, crashed shortly after takeoff of unknown causes, from Rio de Janeiro-Santos Dumont. The crew of four died.[19]
  • 5 September 1958: a Lóide Aéreo Nacional Curtiss C-46D-15-CU Commando registration PP-LDX crashed during approach to Campina Grande. Of a total of 18 people aboard, 2 crew members and 11 passengers died.[20][21]
  • 16 January 1959: Austral Líneas Aéreas Flight 205 crashed on approach to Mar del Plata killing 51 occupants: five crew members and 46 passengers. The cause of the crash was determined as pilot error.
  • 6 May 1959: a Paraense Curtiss C-46/Super C-46 Commando registration PP-BTA crashed shortly after takeoff from Belém-Val de Cães. Three crew members died.[22][23]
  • 1 June 1959: An Aerolíneas Nacionales C-46 was shot down by the Nicaraguan Air Force over Nicaragua, resulting in the death of all 50 people on board.
  • 22 September 1960: a Paraense Curtiss C-46/Super C-46 Commando registration PP-BTF crashed shortly after takeoff from Belém-Val de Cans. Seven occupants died.[23][24]
  • 29 October 1960: A chartered C-46 carrying the Cal Poly football team crashed on takeoff in Toledo, Ohio, resulting in the death of 22 of the 48 people on board.
  • 7 December 1960: a Real Curtiss C-46A-60-CK Commando registration PP-AKF belonging to Transportes Aéreos Nacional operating flight 570 from Cuiabá to Manaus-Ponta Pelada crashed on Cachimbo mountains. The no.2 engine failed during the flight. Altitude was lost, the pilot jettisoned some of the cargo but the aircraft continued to lose height. It crashed and caught fire and 15 passengers and crew died.[25][26]
  • 12 August 1965: a Paraense Curtiss C-46A-50-CU Commando, registration PP-BTH, en route to Cuiabá caught fire and crashed in Buracão, close to Barra do Bugre, in the State of Mato Grosso. All 13 passengers and crew died.[27]
  • 30 April 1964: C-46, HK-527 operated by Aerolineas Carreras made an emergency landing in the Andean region of Puna de Atacama, Argentina on a cargo flight between Lima, Perú and Buenos Aires, Argentina all crew was safe and rescued with the only loss of a handfull of Thoroughbreed mares they were shipping.[28]
  • 11 July 1966: C-46D, HK-527 operated by Aeropesca Colombia disappeared near Cerro el Planchon, Chile on a cargo flight between El Dorado International Airport, Bogota, Colombia and Buenos Aires, Argentina with the loss of a crew of eight.[29]
  • 16 April 1969: Shortly after takeoff, a CIA-chartered C-46 crashed into the Congo River, killing all 45 people on board. The pilot had reported a landing gear malfunction, and was trying to return to N'djili Airport.
  • 11 November 1980: A Curtiss C-46A-45-CU Commando ditched into the ocean off Norman's Cay, Bahamas. There were no injuries.[30]
  • On 24 September (or possibly 16 September), 1976, HK-1282, a Curtiss C-46D operated by Aerosucre Colombia disappeared on a cargo flight en route to Queen Beatrix International Airport, Oranjestad, Aruba with the loss of a crew of two.[31]
  • 21 April 2012, 7 minutes after taking off from Viru – Viru International, Santa Cruz de la Sierra – Bolivia, Curtiss C-46 CP-1319 lost one engine and crashed with the loss of a crew of three and one injured.

ReferencesEdit

Notes
  1. Davis et al. 1978, p. 11.
  2. Love 2003, pp. 46–47.
  3. "Lost in 1944 – Blue Ridge Mountain." caterpillarclub.com. Retrieved: 18 July 2011.
  4. "A Curtis Commando R5C transport plane crashes into Mount Rainier, killing 32 U.S. Marines," on December 10, 1946." historylink.org. Retrieved: 22 February 2011.
  5. "Accident description PP-VBI." Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved: 15 August 2011.
  6. Germano da Silva, Carlos Ari César (2008). "Fogo a bordo" (in Portuguese). O rastro da bruxa: história da aviação comercial brasileira no século XX através dos seus acidentes 1928-1996 (2 ed.). Porto Alegre: EDIPUCRS. pp. 83–86. ISBN 978-85-7430-760-2. 
  7. "Accident description PP-VBI." Planecrashinfo.com. Retrieved: 3 January 2013.
  8. "Accident description CB-39." Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved: 13 May 2011.
  9. "Accident description PP-LDE." Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved: 15 August 2011.
  10. Germano da Silva, Carlos Ari César (2008). "Lima delta xadrez" (in Portuguese). O rastro da bruxa: história da aviação comercial brasileira no século XX através dos seus acidentes 1928–1996 (2 ed.). Porto Alegre: EDIPUCRS. p. 170. ISBN 978-85-7430-760-2. 
  11. "Aviation Safey Network". http://aviation-safety.net/database/record.php?id=19530107-0. 
  12. "Accident description PP-ITD." Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved: 24 May 2011.
  13. Pereira 1987, p. 306.
  14. "Accident description PP-VBZ." Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved: 16 August 2011.
  15. Germano da Silva, Carlos Ari César (2008). "Bloqueio do profundor" (in Portuguese). O rastro da bruxa: história da aviação comercial brasileira no século XX através dos seus acidentes 1928-1996 (2 ed.). Porto Alegre: EDIPUCRS. pp. 140–144. ISBN 978-85-7430-760-2. 
  16. "Accident description PP-ITG." Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved: 16 July 2011.
  17. "Accident description PP-VCF." Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved: 17 May 2011.
  18. Germano da Silva, Carlos Ari César (2008). "Incêndio sorrateiro" (in Portuguese). O rastro da bruxa: história da aviação comercial brasileira no século XX através dos seus acidentes 1928-1996 (2 ed.). Porto Alegre: EDIPUCRS. pp. 153–158. ISBN 978-85-7430-760-2. 
  19. "Accident description PP-BTB." Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved: 10 September 2011.}
  20. "Accident description PP-LDX." Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved: 21 May 2011.
  21. Germano da Silva, Carlos Ari César (2008). "Lima delta xadrez" (in Portuguese). O rastro da bruxa: história da aviação comercial brasileira no século XX através dos seus acidentes 1928–1996 (2 ed.). Porto Alegre: EDIPUCRS. pp. 169–170. ISBN 978-85-7430-760-2. 
  22. "Accident description PP-BTA." Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved: 25 June 2011.
  23. 23.0 23.1 Pereira 1987, p. 319.
  24. "Accident description PP-BTF." Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved: 26 June 2011.
  25. "Accident description PP-AKF." Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved: 6 August 2011.
  26. Germano da Silva, Carlos Ari César (2008). "Melancia voadora" (in Portuguese). O rastro da bruxa: história da aviação comercial brasileira no século XX através dos seus acidentes 1928–1996 (2 ed.). Porto Alegre: EDIPUCRS. pp. 194–196. ISBN 978-85-7430-760-2. 
  27. "Accident description PP-BTH." Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved: 6 August 2011.
  28. Kirbus, Federico
  29. Ranter, Harro and Fabian I. Lujan. "ASN Aircraft accident Curtiss C-46D-10-CU Commando HK-527 Cerro el Planchon." Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved: 28 June 2011.
  30. http://aviation-safety.net/database/record.php?id=19801115-0
  31. Ranter, Harro and Fabian I. Lujan. "ASN Aircraft accident Curtiss C-46D-15-CU Commando HK-1282 Aruba." Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved: 26 June 2011.
Bibliography
  • Andrade, John M. US Military Aircraft Designations and Serials. Hinckley, Leicestershire, UK: Midland Counties Publications, 1979. ISBN 0-904597-21-0.
  • Bowers, Peter M. Curtiss Aircraft, 1907–1947. London: Putnam & Company Ltd., 1979. ISBN 0-370-10029-8.
  • Davis, John M., Harold G. Martin and John A. Whittle. The Curtiss C-46 Commando. Tonbridge, Kent, UK: Air-Britain (Historians) Ltd., 1978. ISBN 0-85130-065-0.
  • Devlin, Gerard M. Paratrooper!: The Saga Of Parachute And Glider Combat Troops During World War II. London: Robson Books, 1979. ISBN 0-312-59652-9.
  • Groves, Clinton. Propliners: A Half-Century of the World's Great Propeller-Driven Airliners (Enthusiast Color Series). Minneapolis, Minnesota: Zenith Press, 1994. ISBN 978-0-87938-866-9.
  • Hardesty, Von. Red Phoenix: The Rise of Soviet Air Power 1941–1945. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, First edition 1982, 1991. ISBN 0-87474-510-1.
  • Johnson, E.R. "The Airliner that Went to War." Aviation History Vol. 18, no. 1, September 2007.
  • Love, Terry. C-46 Commando in action. Carrollton, Texas: Squadron/Signal Publications, 2003. ISBN 0-89747-452-X.
  • Mondey, David. The Hamlyn Concise Guide to American Aircraft of World War II. New York: Bounty Books, 2006. ISBN 978-0-7537-1461-4.
  • Pereira, Aldo. Breve História da Aviação Comercial Brasileira (in Portuguese). Rio de Janeiro: Europa, 1987. ISBN 978-85-61936-00-6.
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