The DC-2 comes to China, part 2

Bringing the center section ashore (Edward P. Howard collection)

Two more classic old photos of CNAC’s first DC-2 coming ashore, and one of it finally assembled, ready to fly.

Airport coolies towing the center section into the hangar (Edward P. Howard collection)
Assembled and ready to fly, CNAC’s first DC-2 in front of the hangar at Lunghwa (Edward P. Howard collection)

The DC-2 comes to China

A Whangpoo lighter brings the center section of CNAC’s first DC-2 upriver to Lunghwa Airport, spring, 1935 (Edward P. Howard collection)

The DC-2 had none of the criss-cross mishmash of struts and spars that had knit together previous generations of aircraft, not a single one. Something about the sleek lines of the all-metal, low-winged monoplane inspired confidence. It looked like an airplane was supposed to look, and the airline used the DC-2’s arrival to launch a marketing campaign spotlighting the prestige a person won using airmail and traveling by plane, a very successful selling point in face-conscious China. Within 90 days, passenger traffic had increased three-hundred percent.

The DC-2’s center section comes ashore (Edward P. Howard collection)

It’s worth noting that the DC-2 had to be brought from the Douglas factory in Santa Monica on a ship. At the time, the Pacific was only flown as one-off stunts by pioneering pilots. The ocean wouldn’t be crossed commercially, on a schedule, until Pan Am started doing it in November of 1935 using massive M-130 flying boats to span a string of mid-Pacific islands, one leg per day (San Francisco to Hawaii, Hawaii to Midway, Midway to Wake, Wake to Guam, Guam to Manila).

The plane pictured above, which is CNAC’s DC-2 No. 24, the Nanking, became my favorite airplane in the CNAC fleet while I was writing China’s Wings. It was destroyed by the Japanese on December 8, 1941, during their initial surprise attack on Hong Kong. Here’s the story of its demise (The photo of the burned out DC-2 at the bottom might actually be No. 24.)


The Douglas Dolphin, Moon Chin’s favorite airplane

Another five chapters of the China’s Wings manuscript came back from the lovely Tracy Devine at Bantam Dell today, ripe with excellent suggestions — she obviously worked her tail off this past weekend. With those hundred-odd pages fresh on my desk, I’ll be keeping my posts brief this week as I dive into the work, but here’re a few photos of the Douglas Dolphin amphibian to keep my post-a-day pace clicking along.

The Douglas Dolphin is Moon Chin’s favorite airplane: “The only overpowered seaplane I ever flew,” he said.

Unpacking the Dolphin fuselages at Lunghwa Airport, October 1934 (Edward P. Howard collection)
Preparing the Dolphin’s wings for mounting in the Lunghwa hangar under the curious gaze of a Chinese soldier, October 1934. (Edward P. Howard collection)
The first Dolphin, assembled and ready to fly (Edward P. Howard collection)

The Loening Air Yacht, early 1930s

The Loening Air Yacht, the height of airline technology in use in China in 1931 (

Aloft, it cruised at about one hundred miles per hour, and the pilots said it had had a built-in headwind, but despite its lethargy, the Loening Air Yacht was rugged and durable and economical to operate, crucial characteristics for an airline to consider if it hoped to operate successfully, and for a profit, in China. It was the most useful commercial airplane in the Middle Kingdom when William Bond arrived in China on St. Patrick’s Day, 1931, the opening scene of my book, China’s Wings.

Here’s a photo gallery of the Loening in China in the 1930s.

My “Loening Air Yacht” tag will help you find my other posts related to that airplane, including some good photos.

I make posts relevant to the book in my Posts Related to…China’s Wings menu tab.

Another view of the Loening, which could carry six passengers the cabin framed between the fuselage and hull (

Flying the Yangtze Gorges

the Yangtze Gorges looking over the tail of one of CNAC’s Loening Air Yachts, early 1930s (

Today’s a revising day (new chapters back from New York), and since I’m working on the part about the Yangtze Gorges, here’s a picture of flying up them in the early 1930s, shortly after the airline opened service from Hankow to Chungking.