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China Aviation Museum

The China Aviation Museum was opened to the public on 11 November 1989 to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the Founding of the PLA Air Force, to an astonished reaction from the aviation community in the outside world, who had no idea of the wealth of aviation history preserved in the country. Good when it opened, it has expanded and improved dramatically since then to take its rightful place as one of the truly outstanding aviation museums of the world. With a staggering 200 aircraft on display, including many unique machines, this is a place every aviation enthusiast should make an effort to visit at least once in their life.
Note that although most people call it the 'Datangshan (or Changping) Aviation Museum', its correct name, as translated directly from the Chinese, is the China Aviation (or Aeronautical - the Chinese word can be translated either way) Museum. Datangshan is actually the name of the mountain (hill) which is the main landmark in the area, and in which the famous tunnel is located, while Changping is the name of the county of which Datangshan is a part.

Photography at the China Aviation Museum is either superb or atrocious, depending on which part of the museum you're talking about! The outside display area is huge and, even taking into account the large numbers of aircraft here, practically everything is well-spaced and nicely positioned, making photos easy. Inside the tunnel, however, is another matter entirely. For some reason it's so dark in here (in some places it's difficult to even see the aircraft clearly) that decent photos are almost impossible to come by. Quite why it's so dark is a bit of a mystery - there are more than enough lights to provide adequate lighting, but only about a third of them are actually turned on. It's probably a power-saving idea (they seem to turn on a few extra lights whenever any visitors enter the tunnel), but it's extremely frustrating for the enthusiast. Bring some fast film, a large flash and a tripod to have any real chance of getting anything worthwhile in here.

The museum is located about 60km north of Beijing, and unfortunately is not the easiest place in the world to get to. Probably the easiest way is to arrange for a taxi from your hotel (in which case you can also carry on to visit the Badaling or Mutianyu sections of the Great Wall, if you want to combine this into one trip). Alternatively, for the more adventurous, it is possible to get there by bus (for the grand sum of about 50c!), although unless you have a working knowledge of Chinese this is probably not a viable option for most people. Take bus number 912 from Andingmen bus station in the north of the city and hope for the best! Be warned that not all 912 buses seem to stop at the museum, and the service is very infrequent - you'll need to make sure at the bus station before attempting this trip.

Most of the aircraft on display at the museum are fighters of various types. Unfortunately most of them are just variations on the usual MiG-copy theme, but it's an impressive sight nonetheless to see a line-up of 20 or so MiGs (these are actually 'spares' held by the museum as possible swaps with other aviation museums around the world. For a long time they were kept, in a steadily decaying condition, in the storage area near the main gate (now cleared), but since it was obvious that nobody else was interested they've now been spruced up and moved to the main display area).

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Shenyang J-8II
Nanchang J-12
Chengdu J-7
Shenyang J-5
Nanchang Q-5

Although many of the exhibits here are overtly military, the China Aviation Museum also contains a world-class collection of significant transport aircraft, with many of these being unique in some way.

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ex-PLAAF Tu-124
ex-CAAC Il-62
ex-Orbis DC-8
ex-CATC CV-240
ex-PLAAF Il-12

There are a reasonable number of helicopters on display, although again, as with the outdoor fighter collection, there's not much variety here.

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Harbin Z-5
Harbin Z-5
Harbin Z-5
Harbin Z-6
ex-CAAC Mil Mi-8

The museum has managed to gather together an incredible array of other, miscellaneous, aircraft. Many of these were formerly test beds for various projects and, like the transport types, there are a number of probably unique aircraft in this category.

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Beriev Be-6
Tupolev Tu-4
Xian H-6
Shijiazhuang Y-5
Antonov An-24

Inside (tunnel display)
The famous tunnel hangar contains a huge number of aircraft, including all the older, more historic machines, along with large numbers of mainly fighters and trainers together with a few larger types. Again, some of the aircraft here are incredibly significant from a historical viewpoint, and, even if you're not particularly interested in the military side of things, a look in here is essential. If only it were possible to get some decent photos of them ...

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Shenyang J-5
Shenyang FT-1
Chengdu JJ-5
Harbin HJ-5
Click here for a list of aircraft on display. Top
Last visited on 21 February 2003 Top of page


Visit to China 2002
Excellent, and very well-researched, page focusing on the propellor-driven transports at the museum, but also including links to a number of exhibit listings in an attempt to sort out which aircraft are actually here! Don't forget to check out the rest of Ruud Leeuw's superb Classic Airliners site while you're here, either.

Aviation Museum of China, Datangshan
A photo gallery containing examples of pretty much everything of interest at the museum (except for the aircraft in the tunnel ...).

The China Aviation Museum
Fairly short, but quite informative, account of a visit to the museum, plus a few photos.

The China Aviation Museum
Chinese site with a good description of the museum, although most of it seems to have been copied directly from the previous site listed here (or possibly vice versa?). It does include an address, telephone number and details of opening times, however.

Red Star Flying
A short, but interesting, CNN report of a visit to the museum, from a non-enthusiast's viewpoint.'s usual huge selection.

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