The Curtiss-Wright C-76 Caravan was a wooden cargo aircraft designed in case the United States ran short of light alloys as military production accelerated after the US entry into the war.
As the production of combat aircraft increased, there was a fear that the US would run short of light alloys, and in particular aluminium and its variants. As a result the government asked the aircraft industry to produce designs for lower priority aircraft, such as transports or trainers, that would use non-strategic materials.
Curtiss responded with the Model CW-27 Caravan, which was given the army designation C-76. The Caravan was actually quite an advanced design. It was a high wing monoplane, with the crew compartment mounted on top of the fuselage. It had a tricycle undercarriage, which meant that its fuselage was level when it was on the ground. The high mounted cockpit meant that the nose could be turned into a door that opened upwards, allowing the aircraft be loaded directly from truck beds. It also had more conventional side doors.
Orders were placed for 200 C-76s to be built by Curtiss at their new Louisville plant, and for an unknown number to be built by Higgins at New Orleans. However the potential aluminium shortage was averted and the C-76 was cancelled after only 25 had been built. Production was concentrated on the more conventional metal built transports.
The C-76 was similar in size to the more conventional C-46 Commando, with an almost identical wingspan. It was 8ft shorter, but nearly 6ft taller. It was much lighter, with a gross weight of 28,000lb compared to 45,000lb on the C-46A, but its much less powerful engines meant that it was nearly 80mph slower. Perhaps its biggest failing was its comparatively short range – only 750 miles compared to 3,150 miles for the C-46A.
Although only a handful of aircraft were built, they came in three variants. Eleven were built at Louisville as the YC-76-CK service test version. Another nine were built at Louisville as the YC-76A-1, with a modified fuselage. Finally five production aircraft were built at St Louis, as the C-76-CS. However they were soon declared obsolete and redesignated as the ZC-76.
Engine: Pratt & Whitney R-1830-92 Twin Wasps
Power: 1,200hp each
Crew: 3 crew and 45 troops
Span: 108ft 2in
Length: 68ft 4in
Height: 27ft 3in
Empty weight: 18,300lb
Maximum take-off weight: 28,000lb
Max speed: 192mph
Climb Rate: 10,000ft in 12.5 mins
Service ceiling: 22,600ft
Range: 750 miles