Visibility: almost unlimited
Wind: light autumn breeze
Location: The Chinese Civil Aviation Museum, Beijing, China
On a web search for chairman Mao’s aircraft (a Hawker Trident), I stumble about Brian Slaters blog about his visit to the Chinese Civil Aviation Museum in Beijing. I had not heard about this museum before – of course I have to go!
My host and I struggle to find the address online, but eventually we find the website and decide, it looks open. We plan the way. Bus line 935 should take me right there. He writes the correct stop down for me.
The next morning, my day starts with a search for the bus stop. On the street we saw on the map, there is no bus stop at all. Just as I start thinking about options, a 935 bus comes around the corner and passes me. I walk in the direction the bus came from and before long I find the nest. A bit off my map but never mind. After some discussion with the driver of the next 935 bus (involving my cheat sheet and lengthy explanations I can’t follow), I am on board.
Once in the bus, I note the time and start counting stops. It is supposed to be 8 stops in about 40 minutes. My flight instructor would be very proud. As my stop comes up, I compare the electronic display with the characters on my paper and double check with the attendant. It all checks out, this is it. However, I find myself standing on an empty road in the middle of a construction site. I am way off my little map of the city center and I try to navigate from my memory of the computer map we looked at the night before.
5 Euro joker
I walk down the road and towards a high way I see in the distance. On the way I ask a worker who only has a blank stare for me. So eventually I pull the joker out of my pocket – the mighty iPhone. After about 5 Euros in roaming charges, I am back on track. The museum is about 3 kilometers to the east. A half hour walk along a busy street with staring Chinese pedestrians brings me to the gate.
The museum is large, new and very nice. The building flows like a waive and definitely has an aerodynamic quality. Brian’s experience has prepared me, so I pull out my identity card at the entrance. The lady at the desk checks it thoroughly, smiles and hands it back to me with the ticket. I’m in.
Room for expansion
I start my visit with the museum building. I enter through the main door and am greeted by a clearly surprised person at the coat check. The inside of the museum is divided up in individual parts that look like trade fair booths. All of them have displays, posters, artefacts and no visitors. A tired cleaning person stares at me, at the bathroom my appearance stops the vivid chatter of two attendants.
The museum is great and I am startled that it is so deserted. Are there no aviation enthusiasts in China?
Out and about
The museum is surrounded by ample space for aircraft. The collection is obviously just starting and the number of exhibits is still small. But they are interesting and not fenced off – a big plus.
It looks like the area has been improoved since Brians visit in 2011. Two C47s and a C46 (with replacement wheels) are placed in a row with neatly trimmed grass around them.
The A310 and a Hawker Trident are sitting a bit further back. I later read about the Trident (B-2207) that it used to be a VIP transport and was open to the public at its earlier base. I would love to see the insides of this beauty. Maybe on a future visit.
Behind the building I see a weathered Iljushin IL-14. Chairman Mao received one as a gift from Stalin in 1954. Is it this one? Probably not but I will have to brush-up on my Chinese to find out.
To be continued…
(originally posted on October 15, 2012 by tilbo at aloft.blog.com/chinese-civil-aviation-museum/)