The first commercial airliner ever shot down by hostile air action, pictures

CNAC DC-2 #32, the Kweilin, was machine-gunned and forced down by five Japanese pontoon biplanes on August 24, 1938, shortly after leaving Hong Kong’s Kai Tak Airport.

Hugh Woods was at the controls, and only his hot stick flying kept the plane in the air long enough to safely ditch in a river. The Japanese seaplanes machine gunned the downed plane for more than an hour, killing two of the crew and 13 passengers. It’s the central incident of chapter 13 of China’s Wings, The Kweilin Incident, and there’s an incident report and a list of the fatalities posted at

Here’s a gallery of photos of taken during the salvage operation:

The plane was salvaged, repaired, refurbished, rechristened and given a new number (#39, the Chungking), and in October, 1940, it became the second CNAC airliner destroyed in-service by hostile air action, at Changyi, outside Kunming. Nine people were killed in the attack, including the pilot, Foxy Kent. There would be no third shootdown for the ill-starred airplane — it burned to slag.



  1. I know this is an old article and I’m hoping you are still seeing comments. I’m hoping to make a YouTube video on this subject and would like to use those photos if possible please?

    1. Michael, I do still see comments, but unfortunately, permission to use these photographs isn’t mine to give away. They belong to the Pan Am Archive in the Richter Library at the University of Florida, and if you want to be official, you’ll have to get permission from them. Sorry the news isn’t better. Best, Greg

  2. Mr Crouch,

    I’m very interested in talking with you in regards to my grandfather James Tate, Capt. CNAC.
    I recently ran across your email and chose to contact you through here first so I may have your permission to contact you.
    Hope to hear from you soon,
    Tommy Tate

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