China Aviation Museum is about 40 miles north of Beijing and located in the foot of fascinating Xiao Tang Hill (XiaoTangShan) in Chang Ping County. On November 11, 1989, it was opened to the public in the 40th Anniversary of the Founding of Air Force of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.
On April, 1991, the air force official ratified its name as the “Air Force Aviation Museum”. In the foreign exchanges, it is called as the China Aviation Museum.
The museum was founded on part of an airbase; the runways are a mile distant and are connected to the museum by a long taxiway, which is also used as access for the traffic. Next to the museum the taxiway continues up the hill; in the hill is a large U-shaped tunnel, which, in the operational days of this part of the airbase undoubtedly sheltered numerous aircraft. Near to the taxiway there are some aprons and a hangar, so there is room for many, many aircraft, mostly military but also some civil ones.
At present, the aviation museum collected more than 200 airplanes with the types exceeding 100, and weapon and equipped samples like ground-air missile, high cannon, radar, aviation bomb and aviation cameras. Among which, lots of them are the precious cultural relics of the country and world aviation treasure works.
After the Second World War the Chinese air force mainly got Russian-built aircraft like MIG-15, MIG-17, Tupolev TU-4, and so on. Very soon China restarted its own aviation industry and manufactured these Russian aircraft under license, many types being radically improved. Their notation was easy: attack aircraft are indicated with an ‘A’, bombers with a ‘B’, fighters with an ‘F’, transport aircraft with an ‘Y’ and helicopters with a ‘Z’. In some cases a ‘T’ for trainer or ‘R’ for reconnaissance are added. The first Chinese built attack aircraft was called ‘A-1’; a BT-5 is a Chinese built trainer version of the Il-28 bomber. The factories in China do not have a name; there are a lot of aircraft manufacturers, and they are simply indicated by the town where they are housed. Well-known plants are in Shenyang (F-2, F-5, F-6, F-8), Xi’an (F-5, F-6, F-7, H-6), Chengdu (F-7), Harbin (Y-5, Y-12, H-5, Z-5) and Nanchang (CJ-5, CJ-6, A-5).
The museum has three parts. First the tunnel, of which both entrances are guarded by an F-7 (the Chinese MIG-21). More than fifty aircraft are parked inside the tunnel in two rows, but photographing is difficult as it is rather dark. At one side there are a number of aircraft from WWII, both Chinese and captured Japanese aircraft. Then a number of aircraft from the period after the Second World War follow, like the MIG-15 and MIG-17, their Chinese alternatives F-2 and F-5, some F-6 and F-7s and an F-8. Some of the older F-2 and F-5s have the well known ‘MIG-kills’ under the canopy; in this case they shot American and South Korean aircraft during the Korean War. Five MIG-15s from the Korean War (air force of North Korea) are present.
Further on are four A-5 ‘Fantan’ attack aircraft and three beautiful B-5s (the Chinese IL-28), a standard B-5, a BT-5 trainer and a BR-5R reconnaissance aircraft. At the end of the tunnel there are some aircraft from abroad; a Saber from the air force of Pakistan, an US Army UH-1H, captured in Vietnam, and the latest acquisition of the museum: an F-104S from the Italian air force. This Star fighter, coded 4-1/MM6795, was flown to China by an Italian Hercules and handed over by the Italian Ambassador to the museum in May 2001. Finally there is an Apache helicopter, but a closer look can make you learn that it is a full scale mock up, made by a Chinese colonel in his spare time.
The second part of the museum is a ‘flight line’ of nineteen fighters parked on the taxiway outside. No ropes, fences or information boards make these aircraft perfect for photographing. One of the aircraft is a MIG-15 from North Korea, the others are from the Chinese air force. Four FT-2s (the trainer version of the MIG-15), one FT-6 (the trainer version of the MIG-19, very rare!) and thirteen F-5s (the Chinese MIG-17).
The third part of the museum are the aprons, the grass, the corners of the airfield and even the small lake. Here the large aircraft and the helicopters can be found, together with even more fighters. Some aircraft worth mentioning are the following – two giant TU-4s (the Russian version of the B-29 bomber) in Chinese colors; a TU-16 bomber, although this type is still active in the Chinese forces; two C-46 Commandos without any registration; four Russian built C-47 Dakotas of the Chinese air force; an Il-10, Il-12 and Il-14; the only Viscount the Chinese ever had; the AN-12, AN-24 and a TU-124. Also some AN-2s, two of which have floats! And a number of helicopters, include five Z-5s (MI-4) and two Z-6s (MI-8). Very fine is a Be-12 near a small lake, especially made for this flying boat.
“Feng Ru No. 2” Airplane is one of the airplane exhibitions that elaborately reproduced by the aviation museum. Feng Ru is China’s first airplane designer, producer and aeroplanist, he is also the first Chinese who won the Aeroplanist Certificated issued by International Aviation Association. On December 7, 1903, the airplane that was designed and produced by American Wright brothers succeed in its experimental flying at first time in the world. Within 6 years later, a Chinese named Feng Ru also succeed in flying his self-made airplane. Its flying height and distance far exceeds that of the Wright brothers.
Feng Ru built another aircraft and took both planes home to China. That was about all he had time for. In August 1912, soon after his return, he died after his plane crashed during an exhibition in Guangzhou. In death, he became a national hero. Sun Yat-sen ordered the words “Chinese Aviation Pioneer” engraved on a monument in his honor.