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Visiting The Chinese Aviation Museum of Central Beijing: Experience and Perception

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For most pilots, aviation is not only a career, but a passion that runs deep. Learning about the history of aviation can be an enriching experience for those who possess this enthusiasm about flight. Aviation museums and exhibitions are a great way to nurture this passion and share it with our families. China is home to several interesting, yet little-known aviation museums that each have a very unique collection including many aircraft rarely seen elsewhere.

The largest and most well-known of China’s aviation museums, the Chinese Aviation Museum is located on a former part of the Shahezhen Airbase about 40 km north of central Beijing. Its collection focuses on aircraft of the Korean and Cold Wars and includes aircraft produced in China, Canada, the Soviet Union, the United States, the United Kingdom, and other countries. Unique to any aviation museum and very impressive in its own right is the aircraft bunker, a 500-meter long cavern carved into an adjacent mountain used to store and protect aircraft during the facility’s time as a military airbase. It is now where the museum displays numerous fighter aircraft and educational exhibits. Larger aircraft are displayed outdoors and some, including a DC-8 used as a flying hospital and one of Chairman Mao’s aircraft, can be entered for a small fee. Perhaps one of the more impressive display at the museum is the long row of MiG fighters parked outside of the aircraft bunker.

Admission to the outdoor areas of the museum is free while entry to the aircraft bunkers and two exhibition halls costs between 10-50 yuan each. The museum is accessible via public transport by taking the Changping Line of the Beijing Metro to Shahe and transferring to a bus that stops in front of the museum. It is about a one-hour drive from central Beijing. Three hours should be allowed for those wishing to see the entire expanse of the museum.

Much closer to central Beijing is the newly renovated Beijing Aviation Museum. It is located on the campus of China’s largest aviation school, Beihang University, and accessible to the public for free upon producing photo identification. This attraction features exhibits about China’s space program, several dissected jet engines for viewing, countless aircraft models, and an exhibition hall with a diverse collection of aircraft both Chinese-made and foreign. Some of the aircraft featured in the museum include US military aircraft such as the T-6 Texan and P-47 Thunderbolt, Soviet types manufactured by Ilyushin and Yakovlev, and Chinese-produced aircraft including the world’s only Beijing-1 passenger transport.

Within the campus of Beihang University, the museum is walking distance from Xitucheng Station on Line 10 and Liudaokou Station on Line 15. Visitors should allow at least one hour to visit the museum.

Located close to the city center of Shanghai, this small museum features an outdoor collection of aircraft formerly with China’s PLAAF as well as a former Japan Airlines DC-8 airliner. The DC-8 as well as an Ilyushin Il-14 used by Chairman Mao are open for visits to their interiors. There is a further indoor exhibition hall with displays highlighting new aircraft designs and models in development by COMAC. There are also indoor and outdoor displays about rockets and the space program.

The Exhibition Hall is located a short walk from the Jinjiang Park Metro Station on Line 1, just beyond the Jinjiang Action Park amusement park. Admission to the museum is 10 yuan.

There are a handful of other noteworthy aviation museums in China such as the Civil Aviation Museum in Beijing, Shenyang Aircraft Corporation Museum, and Lushan Aviation Exhibition Centre in Pingdingshan.

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