Williams Bros 1/72 C-46 Commando
KIT #: 72346
PRICE: $46.00
DECALS: Four options
REVIEWER: Carmel J. Attard


On 26th March 1940 Curtiss Wright flew the prototype of a 36-seat commercial airliner which had the Company designation CW-20. Its large capacity fuselage aroused the US Army interest in the type for cargo/transport and casualty evacuation. A militarised version with 2,000 hp Pratt and Whitney R-2800-43 engines was ordered into production under the designation C-46 and named Commando.

 When the first of three models entered service in July 1942 they were the largest and heaviest twin engined aircraft to serve with the USAF. This proved such a valuable transport in the Pacific Operations that 3,180 Commandos were built before production ended.

The C-46A, which followed, had a large cargo door on the port side of the rear fuselage, a strengthened cargo floor, and folding seats for 40 troops. Pratt and Whitney R-2800-51 engines of equivalent power replaced the R-2800-43 of the C-46s, there having performance at altitude. This proved of great importance and the C-46A ‘humping’ vital supplies over the Himalayas to China from India after the loss of the ‘Burma Road’ were found to have better performance than the C-47 at altitudes involved. They made a vital contribution to the success of the airlift of essential war materials into China. The crew who manned cargo flights were the unsung heroes who kept the essential war and logistic supplies reaching the war zones in the right moment and played an important part for the positive outcome of the war in Asia.

 In the Pacific the Commandos played a significant role in the island hopping operations, which culminated in Japanese surrender, and the 160 R5C-1 aircraft (similar to USAF C-46A) supplied to the US Marine Corps made an important contribution. Later versions included the C-46D personnel version with an extra door on the starboard side (1,610 built).

 Some Commandos were still serving with the 1st Air Commando Group of USAF tactical Air Command in mid 60s, for counter-insurgency duties. Others remained in service in a number of foreign air forces including those of Brazil, Nationalist China, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Japan, South Korea, Peru, and Uruguay mostly of C-46A, D and F variants.

 The USAF employed C-46s operationally during the Korean War as well as in the early stages of hostilities in Vietnam and a very small number possibly remain in service with civilian operations chiefly freight-haulers in Central and South America.


 This is the first and only 1/72 scale model of the C-46 and was released by William Brothers and has always been favoured by modelers. Molded in medium gray styrene and there is a total of 37 parts. There are 13 clear parts which are the cabin and cockpit windows. It is quite a sizeable kit as compared to the popular C-47 Dakota. In spite of its spacious fuselage it lacks detail at the interior cargo compartment, while detail to crew cabin is acceptable, having two crew seats, instruments and bulkhead as well as floor. The engine nacelles are cumbersome and although the wheel wells are spacious they lacked detail on the inside walls. There is nice interior door detail.

The kit is packed in a robust box having a cover art depicting a C-46 flying over clouds and a coastline. It carries WWII style US star and bars and the black numbers 2968093 positioned on tail fin. Otherwise it is overall bare metal apart from the black de-icing boots to leading edges and tail fin.  Decals also include those for Nationalist Chinese with blue and white insignia and stripes to position on the rudder that also has a white serial C-46289. Another option is for a Flying Tiger Line with a red, white and blue livery. This also incorporates a shark mouth on an oval white area. There is a dark blue registration N67981 on tail unit and a red/ white/ blue horizontal stripe above it. Instrument panel is included as also the black walkways. Finally there is the USAAF C-46 in olive drab top and neutral gray lower and early US white star insignia on blue circle and red spot centre. Tail number is 15159 in white.

 Kit has large folded instructions. On one side there is history and writing how to go about building the model. On the reverse page there is an exploded view complete with painting instructions for any of the chosen color schemes. The instructions have no part number but with little experience it is easy to identify the items from their shape alone.


 One has to decide from an early stage which of the options one decides to build in view of slight differences there is between one and the other. I preferred to go a step further and build a Japanese defence Force Air Force version. This offered a most colourful livery for a military type and also having the 4–bladed propellers instead of 3. The assembly itself went together fairly well but items like cockpit interior seats with crew figures added, instrument panel, control wheels these were barely visible through the otherwise clear canopy that was also treated with Klear before fitting in place.

The spacious wheel wells were almost bare and adding structural webbing from strips of plastic card made a difference. The only areas that required a little filler were the wing roots and around the cockpit canopy. For the Japanese aircraft I had to drill a round opening to take the top astrodome that I also molded from clear acetate.

With the model now in one piece, I gave the model an overall coat of light gray, which also revealed a few surface marks that required a little filler and the necessary sanding, and polish and all was done. Careful study of photos of the type revealed exact position of a number of aerials and antennas all around the forward fuselage. Engine exhausts were drilled at their ends and cowling flaps were carefully marked and scribed. Realizing how heavy the kit was I went for a set of SAC robust metal legs that replaced the kit plastic ones. This was beneficial in view that the continual handling of the model in subsequent elaborate masking could easily have snapped if the kit plastic ones were used.


 The Japanese livery was quite inviting but a complex one too. It had areas on fuselage and on wings, which were light gray while the rest was metal. Besides, there were areas on wings and fuselage that were day glo red/orange and a large day glo arrows on fuselage sides. These areas were first airbrushed white, the arrow was marked with a paper arrow pattern at each side of fuselage and proper Tamiya masking tape marked the outline. Having completed the airbrush work on the day-glow areas the model was allowed to stand for a couple of days.

For the large Japanese insignias I used rubber and insertion washers as blanks to provide the red centre when these were placed on white decal sheet. Thus I was able to produce three double sets of different size for all that was required. The tail decal motif of red and white chequers was also designed and hand painted.

The complex areas around the engines were airbrushed black. Wheel wells were zinc chromate. All areas painted so far were now masked and a coat of light gray applied. This was again allowed time to set. Following that the gray areas masked and the final silver mix air brushed. One can only imagine how time consuming the delicate masking was to be.


A long painting process on a rare type, which I think was worthwhile as the final result turned out into a pleasing model. Looking hindsight I could have made a C-46 ECM with additional nose and ventral and dorsal radomes but there it was less colourful. A C-46D in same livery now stands as a plane guard at the Hamamatsu Air Base, Japan. (For those willing to work in 1/144 scale, Platz has two C-46 kits currently on the market that are well worth seeking. Ed)

 Carmel J. Attard

January 2015

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