Douglas O-46

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Douglas O-46.jpg
Douglas O-46A at National Museum of the United States Air Force
Role Observation
Manufacturer Douglas Aircraft Company
First flight 1935
Introduction 1936
Primary user United States Army Air Corps
Produced 1936-1937
Number built 90
Unit cost
US $28,000
Developed from Douglas O-43

The Douglas O-46 was an observation aircraft used by the United States Army Air Corps and the Philippine Army Air Corps.[1]

Design and development[edit]

The O-46A, the last of a long line of Douglas observation planes, was a victim of progress. It was designed to operate from established airfields behind fairly static battle lines as in World War I. However, in 1939, a report was issued on the O-46A which stated that it was too slow and heavy to outrun and outmaneuver enemy pursuit aircraft, too heavy to operate from small, wet, unprepared fields, and too large to conceal beneath trees; this report was a forecast of the future, for World War II with its rapidly changing battle lines proved the need for light, maneuverable observation aircraft which could operate from unimproved airstrips. Consequently, in 1942, the "O" (observation) designation was changed to "L" (liaison).

The O-46 was a development of the earlier Douglas O-43; the 24th airframe of the O-43A contract was completed as the XO-46 prototype, with a revised wing and an engine switch, from the O-43's inline engine to a radial engine, the Pratt & Whitney R-1535-7. The Air Corps ordered 90 O-46As in 1935, they were built between May 1936 and April 1937.

Operational history[edit]

At least 11 O-46s saw overseas duty; two were destroyed in the Japanese raid on Clark Field in the Philippines on 8 December 1941; the Maryland Air National Guard operated O-46A's off the coast of New Jersey for anti-submarine duty.[2] The remainder were declared obsolete in late 1942 and after that were used primarily in training and utility roles.

A proposed variant with a Wright R-1670-3 engine received the designation O-48 but was not built.

Surviving aircraft[edit]

The only surviving O-46A (s/n 35-179) is currently in storage at National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson AFB near Dayton, Ohio.

On 27 November 1942, O-46A, 35-179, of the 81st Air Base Squadron,[3] landed downwind at Brooks Field, Harlingen, Texas, ran out of runway and overturned. Written off, it was abandoned in place. More than 20 years later it was discovered by the Antique Airplane Association with trees growing through its wings, and in 1967, it was rescued and hauled to Ottumwa, Iowa. Restoration turned out to be beyond the organization's capability, and in September 1970, it was traded to the National Museum of the United States Air Force for a flyable C-47; the (then) Air Force Museum had it restored at Purdue University, and placed it on display in 1974, the sole survivor of the 91 O-46s built.[4]

Specifications (O-46A)[edit]

Data from McDonnell Douglas Aircraft since 1920 [5]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 2
  • Length: 34 ft 6.75 in (10.5347 m)
  • Wingspan: 45 ft 9 in (13.94 m)
  • Height: 10 ft 8.5 in (3.264 m)
  • Wing area: 332 sq ft (30.8 m2)
  • Empty weight: 4,776 lb (2,166 kg)
  • Gross weight: 6,639 lb (3,011 kg)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Pratt & Whitney R-1535-7 Twin Wasp Junior 14-cylinder two-row air-cooled radial piston engine, 725 hp (541 kW)
  • Propellers: 3-bladed metal propeller


  • Maximum speed: 200 mph (320 km/h, 170 kn) at 4,000 ft (1,200 m)
  • Cruise speed: 171 mph (275 km/h, 149 kn)
  • Range: 435 mi (700 km, 378 nmi)
  • Service ceiling: 24,150 ft (7,360 m)
  • Rate of climb: 1,765 ft/min (8.97 m/s)
  • Wing loading: 20 lb/sq ft (98 kg/m2)
  • Power/mass: 1.087 hp/lb (1.787 kW/kg)


See also[edit]

Related development

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era

Related lists



  1. ^ "Douglas Aircraft Builds the DC-1 and DC-2." Archived September 19, 2002, at the Wayback Machine U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission, 2003. Retrieved: 27 September 2007.
  2. ^ Armstrong 2005, p. 50.
  3. ^ Fuller, Craig. "November 1942 USAAF Stateside Accident Reports." Aviation Archaeological Investigation and Research, 2008. Retrieved: 21 April 2012.
  4. ^ Westburg, Peter W. and Peter M. Bowers. "The Parasols of Santa Monica". Wings, Volume 4, Number 2, April 1974, pp. 68–69.
  5. ^ Francillon 1979, p. 134.


  • Armstrong, William M. Baltimore in World War II. Mount Pleasant, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing, 2005. ISBN 978-0-7385-4189-1.
  • Francillon, René J. McDonnell Douglas Aircraft since 1920. London: Putnam, 1979. ISBN 0-370-00050-1.

External links[edit]