In July 2002 I combined family holidays (The Great Wall, Forbidden City, Summer Palace) with a visit to the Chinese Aeronautical Museum near Xiaotanshanzen, about 30 kilometers from the Chinese capital, Beijing. It was formerly known as the Datangshan Air Museum, though other names circulate as well (e.g. People's Liberation Army Air Force Museum or Beijing Army Air Force Museum).
Phil Hawks offered the following clarification, for which I thank him (as well as for the corrections):
The name of the museum has been misquoted so many times it's not surprising nobody really seems to know what it is. Officially (a direct translation from the Chinese) it's known as (and always has been as far as I know) the China Aviation Museum (or sometimes China Aeronautical Museum, as the Chinese word for aviation and aeronautical is the same). Datangshan is the name of the mountain at the museum, in which the tunnel (hangar) is located and is therefore the name of the place itself. Xiaotanshanzen is, I believe, the nearest town/settlement of any size near here and Changping is the name of the county in which the airfield/museum is located. Therefore the full name and address of the museum becomes:
China Aviation Museum, Datangshan, Changping.
Alexander Duncan was kind enough to provide me with directions on where (and how) to go, as well as a list of the aircraft to expect. The museum is situated on a former air base and largely consists of military aircaft, lots of fighters. But there were enough "propliners" to satisfy my appetite for round engines .
As soon as you get in the cab from your hotel, you have no one to talk to as no one speaks a word of English. My cabdriver was sufficiently briefed to remain and wait at the gate of the museum for me, but it is unfortunate that no one at the museum can answer any questions on the identity of so many unidentified aircraft.
Then again, I am grateful that this museum in China exits at all, a lot of work has been done already and I enjoyed the visit immensely.
Heinz Rentmeister sent me these 2 aerial views (dated 04Dec04) of the museum, click on the thumbnails to view the larger images:
Upon entering the premises (41 yuan p.p.), there is a little storage field on the left. First thing we saw was someone chasing and catching a snake...
Walking away from the little storage field, back to the gate area, this is where it all begins in earnest. There was an unmarked Antonov
An-24 and this Ilyushin Il-12, in a slightly tattered condition.
On the slide I can read 35?40, on the tailfin.
Phil Hawks saw it in Feb 2002 in the storage area, where he logged it as 35140 (with a 'part' question mark, meaning that it wasn't 100% clear). In Feb 2003 he logged it as being in the main display area (as is everything from the storage area now), with a definite serial of 35140.
Ilyushin started the development of the Il-12 in 1943 as a replacement for the DC-3 look-a-like: the Lisunov Li-2.
The Il-12 was never without its problems, but served both military- as well as civil purposes. Its topspeed was 400 km/h, its cruising speed 290-325 km/h and it could carry 28 passengers. Its radial ( 2 Shvezov ASj-82FNV radials) were if compared to the Convair CV240 less powerfull.
This Il-12 has now been restored in the Chinese People's Liberation Army Air Force colors and decorated with the serial 35046 (first observed in Feb02). A report sent to me indicated this probably used to be 35240, but I think the tattered Il-12 above might be 35240.
The Il-12, code-named by NATO Coach was Ilyushin's first effort to design a transport plane. Early 1946 the prototype made its first testflight. At first it was designed as a tail-dragger, increasing the likeness to the Douglas DC-3, but to fight the instability on the ground a nosewheel was installed.
In its role as airliner, it flew for Aeroflot (entered service in 1948), but also with LOT Polish Airlines, CSA of Czecho-Slovakia, Romania, Bugaria and Hungary. The Il-12 also became available in a cargo configuration, with a double cargodoor, much like the DC-3.
This Lisunov Li-2 is in the Peoples Liberation Army Air Force colors, but unfortunately unmarked. The mountain on the background hides a large hangar, which is cut in the mountain and now has a large display of various fighters inside.
The USSR bought 21 DC-3s from Douglas and Boris Lisunov spent 2 years at the Santa Monica plant to study the production methods.Back in the USSR production was initially undertaken at State Aircraft Plant No. 84, near Moscow and started in 1940.
On this photo the starboard door can be easily recognized.
Again an unmarked Li-2, but this time in camouflage. No doubt with a story to tell, but which ? Later (Dec02 & Jan03) reports seem to have this
aircraft restored as "3019" and was identified as c/n 184 399 03, but confirmation is welcome (maybe the bands across the aft fuselage can provide a clue.
Early Li-2s were powered by 900 Hp Shvezov M-62s (a developed version of the license-built Wright SGR-1820F, which powered the Douglas DC-2), but later the ASh-62 was used and power increased to 1200 Hp.
Again in camouflage, but this time with a dab of red (what else ?) and serial 8205. It has been identified as 18439709.
The constructionnumner gives a lot of information: it's no.9 aircraft built in a batch of 97 (18439709), built in 43 (18439709) at plant 18 (18437909; plant 18 was apparently renumbered 23 in 1944 and later that year became 33).
I have to thank Phil Hawks again for the explanation on the nose titles, it's SKOGA in Russian Cyrillic. But the meaning remains a mystery.
Not unlike the DC-3, this aircraft has also been produced in many variants: Li-2P for passengers, Li-2G for cargo duties with Aeroflot, Li-2T for military cargo duties, Li-2PG was a combi (both passengers as well as cargo), Li-2R was configured for photo-reconnaissance, Li-2D was for military "pathfinder" duties, Li-2V was ski-equiped and had its engines modified with a turbo compressor, Li-2(B) was a bomber version (!) and was fitted with a center-section bomb rack to carry 1500 kg bombs.....
Li-2 XT-115 (serial is fake) in the colourscheme of China National Aviation Corporation (CNAC). It has been with the museum since 1989.
CNAC (pronounced "CEENAK" by the GI's) operated throughout 1930s and 1940s, was based in Shanghai at first until mid-1937 when the Japanese invaded China. The next base was in British Hong Kong until Pearl Harbor, December 1941, at which time Hong Kong was occupied by the Japanese. During the war years of 1942 through 1945 Calcutta became headquarters. The move back to Shanghai was made early in 1946 where it remained until the Communist take-over.
Originally 77 C-47s and 10 C-53s were supplied directly to the Chinese Air Force under the war-time Lend-Lease agreement. They were used to supply the frontlines while fighting the invading Japanese. Some of these remained in the Chinese Peoples Armed Forces Air Force after the Communist take-over and were supplemented by Li-2s supplied by Russia. i did not see any Douglas-manufactured types preserved at this museum.
For a larger and slightly different look at XT-115 click on the image:
Apparently some western-built aircraft have found their way into China in those early days too: Convair CV240 XT-610 (c/n 131) of Central Air Transport. Pity it has its engine removed. A fleet of six Convairs were operated.
This aircraft was manufactured in Feb. 1949 and registered XT-610; it was reregistered N8305C for CAT but this was never taken up.
It was captured by Mao's Communist Forces when they took over in China. It's been reported as being used by CAAC with serial "401". XT-610 was named Beijing by the People's Central Government and Chairman Mao Tse-tung wrote the Beijing-titles for this special aircraft. XT-610 was chosen to operate the offical inaugural CAAC flight from Guangzhou-Bayun airport in August 1950; it was then repainted in CAAC colours and registered as 401. At some date it was left derelict (maybe due lack of spares) at Beijing and used for ground instruction. By 1989 is was reported as being present with the Chinese People's Liberation Army Air Force Museum, and at some point it was repainted in the CATC c/s..
CATC (Central Air Transport Co.) was another big airline in wartime China. It was the successor of Euravia, a Sino-German airline. It purchased 6 CV240s from Convair.
Upon formation of CATC, in 1943, the Chinese government owned 80 percent of the company, while the remaining 20 percent was held by Chinese citizens. Shortly after the war 12 C-47s were purchased in India. In July 1946 about 150 surplus C-46s and C-47s were acquired from the surplus stocks in the Chungking area (many of those used for spares). Services, mainly passenger, stretched from Shanghai to various Chinese cities. The Communist advance eventually forced CATC to halt operations and much of the fleet was flown out to Hong Kong.
Even Viscounts found their way to China ! This is a Vickers Viscount 843 with serial 50258 and c/n 453.
The Vickers Viscount was manufactured until the mid-1960s, the last one being the last of an order placed by the Civil Aviation Administration of China - CAAC, thus opening the Chinese market to Western aircraft manufacturers. CAAC took delivery of six Viscounts, the last (or perhaps all of them) being delivered in 1964. They all had British registrations: G-ASDP to G-ASDV. (Thanks for the info, Michael Blank !).
|C/n 453 - Viscount V.843
First flight 08Aug63 - registered to Vickers-Armstrong (Aircraft) Ltd on 078Nov62 as G-ASDS. UK CoA issued on 27Aug63. UK registration cancelled 19Sep63, delivered to CAAC on that date, as 406 (used 84303 for the ferry flight from Hong Kong to China).
Reregistered B-406 in 1974.
Transferred to the Chinese Air Force in Apr83 as 50258. Withdrawn from use in May88 and placed on display at Datang-Shan Museum, Changping, Beijing in 1990. Displayed in full CAAC colours.
"The Vickers Viscount" (- by Rayner G C Kittle; Air-Britain Historians Ltd, 2008)
One of my favourite propliners; the Ilyushin Il-18 ! This museum has 2 parked next to each other: B-230 (Il-18V cn 50851) and
"208" (identified as c/n 185008701 in Aviation Letter, Dec02). The interior is in an excellent condition.
These handsome airliners were retired from CAAC in 1989 and replaced by Boeing 737s. Thirteen Il-18s were operated by CAAC spanning 30 years.
The Il-18 was nicknamed Coot by NATO forces and falls in the same catagory as the Lockheed L.188 Electra and the Vickers Vanguard. It made its first public appearance on an air show at Tushino (Moscow) on July 10th, 1957.
By 1960 the Ilyushin Il-18 had 12 worldrecords to its name, all made by testpilot Kokkinaki (who set 64 worldrecords in his flying career !).
The Il-18 was redesignated Il-18V when the Il-18D and -E appeared on the scene; these were stretched versions. About 100 of the 800 produced were exported, at least 7 of them to the CAAC of China.
The crew consisted of 2 pilots, 1 navigator, 1 radio operator and a flight engineer. It could seat 110 passengers.
It had a cruisingspeed of 625 km/h and its 4 Ivchenko AI-20M turboprops provided a range of some 3700 kms with a max.payload (in comparison: with a max.payload the Douglas DC-7 had a range of 5810 kms and the Bristol Britannia 6860 kms).
They really outdid themselves, landscaping this Beriev Be-6 ! It has serial 98706, but I have no information whether this is fake or
not. It certainly does look the part.
Beriev Be-6 "Madge" is a twin-engined long-range maritime reconnaissance flying boat. Two 2000 hp. Shvetsov ASh-73 radial engines. Patrol flying boat, closely resembling the U.S. PBM 'Mariner': a gull-winged aircraft with twin, oval tailfins on top of a deep fuselage. It stayed in service until the late 1960s. Predecessor for Be-12. First flown in Nov'47. (credit: http://www.aviation.ru/Be/ )
According to Simon Brooke, who has a larger understanding of these aircraft than I have, this aircraft has been re-engined with turboprops (AI-20s ?)
Log reports and attempt to identify airframes present at this museum
Simon Brooks' 2002 photos
Ronald Stevelink's photos of his 2004 visit
"Since December 2003 I visited the museum at Datangshan again - in July 2008 and November 2009.
This enabled me to update the information in the original log to make it more complete, and to correct errors. In particular I have paid attention to getting the various MiG-19/J6 variants sorted out. The first two visits were about 5-hours each, but the most recent visit was only 90-minutes - so on that last occasion I was not able to 'do' the exhibits inside the tunnel and new exhibition hall. That is why there are several '?' locations...
The changes in just 16-months are incredible - the place was hardly recognisable with new monuments, buildings and aircraft. There is no doubt that in future Datangshan will be much more accessible from Beijing with the metro extension and as it becomes a 'major' tourist attraction. Gone are the days of wandering around the place on your own - as I did in 2003 and 2008!
Please replace my December 2003 log with the 2009 PDF update."
China Int'l Airport used to have a unique spot to take photographs from outside the fence, very close to the taxiway to runway 36L. Unfortunately people had recently reported this spot had "gone forever" due to an Air China Cargo warehouse being built plus a ramp for widebodies; accompanied by my son, I decided to take our chances and face the heat (over 40 C) and see what possibilities remained.
We were sent away from a fence at the China Postal Airlines ramp by a uniformed guard, but not after we took this Y8F-100 B-3103 (c/n 1005).
The Shaanxi Y-8 is a licensed version of An-12 built in China. The Y-8 is a medium size medium range tranport aircraft produced by Shaanxi Aircraft Company, based on the Russian Antonov An-12. It is a fully pressurized aircraft equipped with four turboprops and tricycle landing gears with low pressure tires and disc brake system. Its spacious cargo compartment can accommodate out-sized cargo.
In search for the spot at the threshold of runway 36L, we arrived at the new China Air Cargo building, which looked complete but only from the outside. There was no uniformed guard at the gate, so we walked in, like we had business to attend to... We crossed the ramp, which was complete for two-thirds, continued among
the Chinese workers with a pleasant "Ni hao" and "Hi !" all around and found a spot on top of a sandpile.
We were in plain view of a guard in a watchtower, inside the fence of another cargo warehouse. No one bothered us for the 3 hours we spent there.
Unfortunately, this sandpile was too far distant to take the smaller aircraft (e.g. 737s) full frame with a 300mm telephoto lens. The grounds between the sandpile and the fence was covered with weeds of all sorts and I decided not to walk thru it, dressed in shorts and afraid for ticks. Beijing was famed by aircraft photographers for the spot near rw36L, now it seems doomed.....
Map of BJS airport layout
Heinz Rentmeister sent me a few aerial shot from BJS airport, taken in Dec.2004 on a flight from Beijing to Shanghai:
BJS aerial 1, BJS aerial 2 and a close up. The building site in the foreground is for a new terminal; as one can see in the close up, the taxiway to the new cargo ramp has not been realised yet (maybe delayed due to priority to the new terminal which has to be operational for the Beijing Olympics of 2008.
With Air China CA111, a modern Boeing 767-200 (B-2554), we flew from Beijing to Hong Kong
There are not many propliners visiting Hong Kong these days, but the Science Museum has C-47 VR-HDB preserved. This C-47 (c/n 4423) got Cathay Pacific Airways started in 1946, but it was sold in 1953 and reregistered VH-MAL in New Guinea; it ended up in 1973 with Bush Pilot Airways (later Air Queensland), who sold it in 1983 to Cathay for preservation. I found I had to pay tribute to this aircraft.
For a better view click on the image (19kB)
"Alles over Russische Vliegtuigen" (All about Russian Airplanes), by Hugo Hooftman (La Riviere & Voorhoeve, 1968)
"The Douglas DC-3 and its Predecessors", by J.M.G. Gradidge (Air-Britain Historians, 1984)
"The Convairliners Story", by J.M. Gradidge (Air-Britain Historians, 1997)
"Jane's All the World's Aircraft 1970-1971"
"Curtiss C-46 Commando" by John M. Davis, Harold G. Martin and John A. Whittle (Air-Britain, 1978)
I am also indebted to Alexander Duncan who provided me with an initial list, including various type designations and construction numbers, of the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) Museum at Xiaotanshanzen (formerly known as Datang Shan Air Museum). Back to my Datangshan Gatepage
Reactions will be welcomed: EMAIL
Excellent history and lots of photos in Colin Ballantine and Pamela Tang's book Chinese Airlines (Airlife, 1995); recommended reading !
Links in my website relating to the above:
background on the Convair 240-640 series
Info on C-46 Commando including China ops
My name Ruud "Rudi" Leeuw in Chinese:
It's pronounced Lu Ruidian (as produced by http://www.mandarintools.com/, "Get a Chinese Name"...
On the subject on CNAC-China National Aviation Corporation, try www.cnac.org