Of all the planes to touch down at the 2019 Valdez Fly-In, one stood out from the rest for obvious reasons. A hulking, all-metal behemoth of a plane emblazoned with an image of the planes namesake: ‘Hot Stuff,’ the little devil cartoon made popular by Harvey Comics. As it turns out, this is joke referencing the history of the Curtis C-46 Commando that was rescued by Everts Air in the 1980’s.
“The airplane was in Canada when something had happened with the fuel plane or something and it had a fire,” said Terry Galyean, who pilots the aircraft on a daily basis. “It took a lot of work to get that fixed- and they decided it needed to be called Hot Stuff.”
Around 3700 of these planes were made during WW2, using designs that would benefit pilots who were tasked with navigating Chinese airspace, which included the harsh environment of the Himalayas.
Everts Air might be one of the only companies with the means to rescue a derelict C-46. They own four working planes and estimate that only around 10 still exist in flying condition. The company’s founder spent a significant amount of time tracking down parts at auctions and salvage yards before purchasing a business called C-46 Parts Inc. to bolster their stock of back-up parts.
Mike Osborne has been working on these aircraft for 40 years. He says the unique nature of Alaska’s rougher regions make the C-46 an ideal choice for delivering fuel and cargo.
“We go to a lot of places with unimproved airstrips,” Osborne said, “A lot of dirt or not lot of pavement. It handles all of that just fine.”
Hot Stuff has two R2800 engines. Galyean says he burns more fuel getting from one end of the airstrip to the other than most planes will burn in an hour, but according the Osborne, the plane’s size and power make it more than efficient as for cargo operations in an Arctic environment.
“So, yes, it burns a lot of gas,” he said, “But when you get to the grand scheme of things – the fuel burn versus what you can haul, there’s nothing else out there that can touch it.”