Visit to China 2002

Photos © R.Leeuw

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.

On the left the location of the Chinese Aeronautical Museum in relation to Beijing and on the right an aerial view of the museum, though fortunately there were much more aircraft displayed then visible in this picture !
Location of the museum in relation to Beijing Aerial view Chinese Aeronautical Museum, Beijing

The picture on the right I copied from a brochure and seems from a model, but one get an impression. Where the road in the top of the picture seems to embrace a mountain, is the hangar (a.k.a. 'tunnel' or 'cave') inside the mountain and which has more aircraft on display. Bring a powerful flashgun !

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...

(c) R Leeuw

Among various wrecks there was this unidentified Lisunov Li-2. The difference between a Douglas C-47 (DC-3) and a Lisunov Li-2 can be recognized when looking at the cockit windows: the rectangular extra cockpitwindow is unique for the Li-2.

(c) R Leeuw

This shot gives a good impression of the little storage field: a beautiful Ilyushin Il-18 (B-226, c/n ?) among a lot of rubbish.
I was corrected on the "rubbish" bit: "...that pile of junk next to your IL18 looks like they are remains of Ilyushin IL-2 "Sturmovik" WW2 fighter bombers, nicknamed the flying tank; they were used against German panzers in WW2 and the UN in the Korean war by the Communist forces. A very nice aircraft, would love to know more as I have helped restore 2 aircraft and would love to find out more about these !
For a larger view click here

(c) R Leeuw 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.

(c) R Leeuw 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.

(c) R Leeuw

Over 3.000 of the Il-12 were built, some of them by Avia in Czechoslovakia. Unlike the DC-3 (well, unlike most, as some of the early versions were built with the door on the starboard side), the door was situated on the righthand side. The military version had doors on both sides.
The props had four blades, another difference with the DC-3.
I would welcome more details on this Il-12 with serial 35141 and its colorscheme.

(c) R Leeuw

This Ilyushin Il-14P, with serial 4202 (cn 6341010), would obviously welcome some more restoration work. December 2002 issue of Aviation Letter quoted c/n 913119 for this Il-14.
It was at one time used by Chairman Mao. Between 19Mar1957 - 10Sep1958 it made only 23 return trips on board 4202. Its interior revised to be fitting for such a VIP guest, though I can't say I've seen it for myself.

The Il-14 was nicknamed Crate by NATO forces and was a follow-up to the Il-12. It could carry a larger load (e.g. 24-32 passengers) and appeared in 1953 on the scene. Again it served both in a military role (Il-14T) as well as a civil role (Il-14P). Other versions like Il-14G and -M were developed later.
The 2 engines were Shvezov ASh-82T radials (cruising at 300 km/h) and used the exhaust fumes to aid the propulsion, much like the Convair CV340-440 series (which again out-performed the Il-14). Crew consisted of 2 pilots, a navigator and a radio operator, with also a seat for a flight engineer.
During the 1950s and 1960s the Il-14 was the backbone of the aerial transport in the USSR and her allies and was license-built in Czechoslovakia (Avia) and East Germany (Dresdener VEB).
The Il-14 can be distinguished from the Il-12 by square wingtips and a larger, square tailsection.

(c) R Leeuw

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.

(c) R Leeuw 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.

(c) R Leeuw

A fine restored example: Li-2 with serial 311 and identified as cn18439703.
For a larger image click here
The CAAC (the Civil Aviation Administration of China) flew airliner services with this type of aircraft at least until the 1980s, but I'd welcome more info.

(c) R Leeuw 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.....

In a 2018 article I found little had come to the surface regarding the history of this Li-2, 8205. Allegedly it was used by Chairman Mao for some time, but details are missing. Perhaps one day..?

(c) R Leeuw 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.
(c) R Leeuw 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.

(c) R Leeuw

Even Viscounts found their way to China ! This is a Vickers Viscount 843 with serial 50258 and c/n 453.
The lightblue / white colourscheme is indeed 'presidential', as befitting the transport of Chairman Mao!

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)

Some added information I've read in a 2018 article: In 1982, Mao had died 8 years previously, this Viscount was hijacked! Pilots Lan Digshow and Zhang Jainghai managed to land it safely at Nanjing. These two pilots were labelled heroes. What happened during the hijack (an attempt, surely?) or after is not known.
After reading this I googled both names, but came up zilch, nada, nothing. Omnipotent Chinese censorship at work here, I think.


(c) R Leeuw 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.

In an 2018 article I read that the tailcode has been changed to '232', though the reasoning is unclear.

These handsome airliners were retired from CAAC in 1989 and replaced by Boeing 737s. Thirteen Il-18s were operated by CAAC spanning 30 years.

Chairman Mao used Il-18 230, unclear when this started but the last flight he enjoyed in B-230 was on 21Jul1967, when he flew from Wuhan
(Wangjihadun) to Shanghai (Honggiao). It was mainly used for flying longer distances; it has a bed on board, for use by Chairman Mao. Its
interior was made luxurious (by Chinese standards).
During my visit we could take a look inside and found that the seat pitch was not suitable for someone of Western built...

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).

(c) R Leeuw

There are 3 Curtiss C-46 Commando's preserved at this museum, unfortunately none has identificational markings on it. One could be 43-6344. It is a great pity that there is no English speaking curator present.
For more details on the C-46 operations in Indo-China I refer to my link below at this page.

(c) R Leeuw

Civil Air Transport (before Dec.1949), Central Air Transport (CATC) and China National Aviation Corp. all operated the Curtiss Commando in China;
CAT operated XT-44, XT-802 (cn22215), XT-804 (22218), XT-806 (22228), XT-808 (22232), XT-810 (22236), XT-812 (22345), XT-814 (22347), XT-816 (22351), XT-818 (22353), XT-820 (22354), XT-822 (22355), XT-824 (22359), XT-826 (22362), XT-828 (22363) and XT-830 (22366).
CATC operated XT-512, XT-520, XT-522 (cn449), XT-524, XT-526 (22453), XT-534, XT-536, XT-540, XT-542 and XT-544.
CNAC operated XT-120 (387), XT-154 (33371), XT-156(1) (33372), XT-156(2) (32950), XT-160 (32960), XT-162 (32954), XT-164 (30196), XT-166 (30377), XT-168 (30380), XT-170 (30222) and XT-172 (30369).

(c) R Leeuw 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: )
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 ?)

(c) R Leeuw

This An-12 is marked as 1151 and saw service as the personal aircraft of Chairman Mao Tse Tung.
The Antonov An-12 (NATO codename "Cub") is a standard paratroop and freight transport and undoubtly served to develop the Chinese variant Shaanxi Y-8F Yunshuji, of which some photos are shown further down the page.
The AN-12 can lift a heavier load than the Lockheed C-130 Hercules, some 20.000 kgs compared to 16.190 kgs. Cruise speed is 670 km/h.

(c) R Leeuw

B-1059 is another Antonov An-12, identified as c/n 7345307 in Jan.2003 issue of Aviation Letter.
Except China and Russia, the versatile An-12 was also delivered to air forces of Algeria, India, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq and Poland. It was in civil use by Aeroflot, CAAC, LOT Polish Air Lines, Bulair, Cubana and it is (anno 2002) still widely used in the former East-Block countries, Middle East and Africa.
Through my frontpage menu one can surf to photos I shot of Antonov An-8s and An-12s at Sharjah,UAE in April 2000.

Log reports and attempt to identify airframes present at this museum
Simon Brooks' 2002 photos
Ronald Stevelink's photos of his 2004 visit

Datangshan Museum Map 2009

"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.

(c) R Leeuw 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.

(c) R Leeuw

Y8F-100 B-3101 (1001) was my second "Shaanxi Yunshuji" of the day (and 2nd in my collection, for that matter !) and as they have a fleet consisting of only 5 or 6, I felt more than pleased !

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.

the Airport Fee desk at the airport starts a series of frustrations The boarding card stub of CA111

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.

(c) R Leeuw

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, "Get a Chinese Name"...

External Links:
On the subject on CNAC-China National Aviation Corporation, try

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(replace -AT- by the @ symbol).

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Created: 20-4-02 Updated: 08-8-09