The CNAC Story
The China National Aviation Corporation

The China National Aviation Corporation played a significant role in the history of modern China. Originally a partnership between the Chinese government and the Curtiss-Wright corporation, the airline became a part of the Pan American Airways empire in 1933.

Surmounting massive technical problems, CNAC established the first air routes in China, connecting the commercial center of Shanghai with Canton, Peking and the cities along the Yangtze River.

Following the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese war in 1937, CNAC remained China's sole means of speedy communications with the outside world. Operating conditions were extremely hazardous because the airline was forced to fly under the worst possible circumstances to avoid Japanese attack.

Before America's entry into the Pacific war, CNAC pioneered the famous route over the Hump between China and India. When the Burma Road was cut off by the Japanese Army during WWII, this route became the only source of outside supply for China. CNAC's operation of an airlift over the Hump became the most glorious chapter in a notable history.

It was the world's first major airlift, and it was a pilot's nightmare.

The 500-mile route traversed some of the most treacherous country in the world. Flying with few or no radio aids over inadequately charted areas, under constant harassment from enemy fighters, CNAC pilots had not even the satisfaction of being able to shoot back. Their C-47s and later C-46s were unarmed.

In the early days of WWII, CNAC also provided airlift for the AVG, transporting personnel and supplies to and from the various Flying Tigers bases. To fly pilots to India on their way to pick up new planes for the AVG and CAF, CNAC provided the service. General Jimmy Doolittle and his Raiders who landed in China, were flown across the Hump on the beginning of their journey home.

In addition to its regular commercial operations, CNAC carried military supplies between India and China under a Chinese Government contract arranged in 1942 with the U.S. Army, which supplied Douglas C-47 and C-53 planes and later, Curtiss C-46 transports.

During the war, CNAC and the U.S. Army Air Transport Command carried approximately 10 and 90 percent, respectively, of the total lend-lease supplies flown across the Hump. From April 1942, when the Burma Road was lost, to April 1945, CNAC made more than 35,000 trips over the Hump. In 1944 it flew almost 9,000 round trips, or 10,000,000 miles, over this route, transporting approximately 35,000 tons of lend-lease, and also strategic materials.

During the war it also transported to Northwest China considerable amounts of strategic materials destined for Russia. Carrying 38 percent of all strategic air cargoes on world routes in 1944, CNAC ranked second only to the Air Transport Command, which carried 57 percent.

CNAC also played an important role in the Burma campaign by dropping food to Chinese expeditionary forces, evacuating besieged Chinese and British troops, and supplying the Ledo Road project with men, equipment, medical supplies and food. Between October 22, 1944 and January 21, 1945, it made 523 trips, dropping 1,836,970 pounds of rice to roadbuilders.

To fill their ranks, CNAC added many Tiger pilots to their number when the AVG was disbanded, as well as other commercial pilots recruited in the United States and China. Some of the new pilots never had flown anything bigger than a Cub. Most of them never had been at the controls of multi-engine equipment nor were they familiar with instrument flying.

Now they were called upon to fly day and night over the world's roughest and highest terrain in all kinds of weather 16 to 20 hours daily

The aircrews and transport aircraft of the China National Aviation Corporation played a vital role in the victory of Allied forces in the Second World War.    Established as a national airline in 1929 in order toopen up China to air travel.   CNAC was originally a partnership between the Chinese Government and the Curtiss-Wright Aircraft Corporation,however, Curtiss-Wright was soon replaced in the partnership by Pan American Airways.

Shortly before Chennault's AVG began operations against the Japanese, CNAC had pioneered a number of air routes over the forbidding Himalayan Mountains in order to connect China and India by air.   These newly explored high altitude air routes would soon be known throughout the world as the "Hump," and would play a major role in the ultimate defeat of Japan's Imperial war machine.

With the fall of Burma and the closure of the "Burma Road," in April 1942, the Japanese Army had effectively cut-off China's last remaining land route to the outside world.   The loss of the “Burma Road," left the Allies with no alternative but to supply China entirely by air.    By immediately utilizing the Himalayan air routes they had first charted in 1940, CNAC crews began what would become the most physically challenging, and ultimately the most successful military airlift operation in history.  

By first working with the few US Army transport aircraft that were available to supply both Chennault's aerial operations and the Chinese military, and then as an intricate part of the Army's Air Transport Command, CNAC aircrews would operate in support of Allied operations throughout the entire China-Burma-India Theater of Operations.   However it would be over the high altitude air route known as the "Hump" that CNAC aircrews would contribute most to Allied victory and at the same time, create for themselves a legendary record of achievement that is unmatched in aviation history.      

CNAC crews made more than 38,000 war-time trips over the "Hump," and would carry more than 114,500 tons of vital military equipment and supplies to American, Chinese and British forces throughout China and Burma.


More CNAC History

In 1929, it was established as China Airways by Curtiss-Wright, under the leadership of U.S. airline magnate Clement Melville Keys. In 1933, after a series of disastrous accidents and disagreements with Chinese leader Chiang Kai-shek, Keys sold the company to Pan American Airways, under the control of Keys' arch-rival Juan Trippe. Pan Am placed the company under the control of banker and aviator Harold Bixby. When the Japanese invasion of China in 1937 overran all of China's maritime access, its Chinese Air Company was merged with China Airways into the China National Aviation Company (CNAC), with Pan Am owning 45% of the operation and the government the remaining 55%.

During World War II, CNAC flew supplies from Assam, India, into Yunnan, southwestern China through the Hump Route, after the Japanese blocked the Burma Road. Despite the large casualties inflicted by the Japanese and more significantly, the ever-changing weather over the Himalayas, the logistics flights ran around the clock, from April 1942, until the end of the war.

CNAC eventually operated routes from Shanghai to Beijing (Peking), Chongqing (Chungking) and Guangzhou (Canton), using Douglas DC-2 and DC-3 aircraft. Apart from purchasing war surplus planes, CNAC had also acquired brand new Douglas DC-4s, to serve the route between Shanghai and San Francisco. [ 1 ]

The downfall of CNAC's operations came on 9 November 1949, when managing director Colonel C. Y. Liu, general manager of CATC (Central Aviation Transport Corporation), Colonel C. L. Chen and some of the staff declared their wish to be Communist. On the day, 12 aircraft from CNAC and CATC were flown, without acknowledgment, from Hong Kong Kai Tak Airport to Communist controlled China. One aircraft arrived in Beijing, while the other 11 arrived at Tianjin. More remaining staff also moved to Mainland China, at a later date. Remaining aircraft in Hong Kong had transferred to the Civil Air Transport Inc., managed by the Nationalists, in an effort to save the aircraft from the Communists.

Captain(?)Kwok Keung Chan (1944-1946)
CaptainC.P. Chang (1943-1947)
Co-PilotChang, Szhe Pu Chinese (194?-1944)       
CaptainW.I. Chang Chinese (19??-19??)
CaptainY.T. Chang Chinese (194?-1944)   
CaptainC.T. Chao Chinese (194?-1947)
CaptainJames Charville"Jim" (*) (194?-1943)
CaptainHugh Chen (1933-1949)
CaptainJimmie Chen (194?-1943)
CaptainK.W. Chen Chinese (194?-194?)
Co-PilotMoon Hong Chen * of Chevy Chase, Maryland (194?-194?)
CaptainT.L. Chen (194?-194?)
CaptainT.Y. Chen (194?-194?)
CaptainWillie Chen (1942/3-1945)
Co-PilotFranklin Chiang (1942-1945)
CaptainArthur S.T. Chin"Art" (1945-194?)
CaptainEd Chin (Chinese) (1942?-194?)
CaptainFred Y.T. Chin (Chinese) (1946-1949)
CaptainLester Chin (USA) (1945-1946)
Captain (1936)Moon Fun Chin * of San Francisco (1933-1946) 
P.H. ChinnakaBing H. Chinn (194?-194?)
CaptainHarold T. Chinn"H.T." (Canadian) (1937-1949)
CaptainPaul Chinn (194?-1941)
Co-PilotChu-Hsung Chou Now using Chu-Xiong Zhou (194?-1949)
Co-Pilot/Captain(?)V.N. Chow (194?-19??)
CaptainStephen Y.S. Chow (Chinese) (194?-1945)
CaptainH.M. Chu (Chinese) (194?-1945)
"Big" Chuan (Chinese) (1931-1931)
CATC)(SIA) Co-PilotAndrew Yew Weng Fong (*) (194?-194?)
(CATC)(SIA) CaptainBen Fong (194?-194?)
CaptainChin Ho (Chinese) (194?-194?) (USMC)
I think that Co-PilotC. L. Hsu andHsu Chin are the same person (19??-1949)
Co-PilotS.Y. Hsung (194?-1949) Co-PilotRenjie Hua (Chinese) (1945-1946)
Captain (3/43)George Huang (British) (H=XXX) (1942/3-1945)
PilotM.P. Hwang Chinese (194?-1943) (H=XXX)
CaptainArthur Hing (194?-194?)

T.R. Leong (19??-19??)
CaptainK.Y. Leung (Chinese) (194?-194?)
Co-PilotH.L. Leung (1944-1949)
Co-PilotL.T. Leung (193?-1940)
Co-PilotC. Li (early 193?-early 193?)
H.H. Liang
CaptainK.Y. Liang (1942?-194?)
Liang Kuan-yi
Liang Pi-ang
CaptainW.T. Liang (194?-194?)
Co-PilotLieu Chung-chaun (193?-1938)
CaptainLin Chin-tai (193?-19??)
Co-PilotL. Lin (194?-194?)
CATC Captain (10/43)Albert Mah"Al" (*) (Canadian) Ced's older brother (H=XXX) (1943-1944)
CaptainCedric Mah"Ced" (*) (Canadian) Al's younger brother (H=337) (1944-1946)
C.F. Liu
(Chinese) (194?-1944) (CAF)  
CaptainK.L. Mah (Canadian) (not related to Al and Ced) (194?-1944)
Captain (3/43)M.K. Loh (Chinese) (1943-1943)
Jimmy Mar
(We Flew Without Guns page 193) (194?-194?)
K.I. Niehalso known asNieh Kai-i Assistant Operations Manager, Pilot and Vice-Director of Operations of CNAC in 1931
CaptainGordon Poon (193/4?-1949)
Co-PilotH.C. Tan PilotJohnny Tai (Malayan-Chinese) (194?-194?)
PilotChiu F. Tang (*) (194?-194?)
CaptainDonald Wang (19??-194?) (H=XXX)
Co-PilotW.L. Wang (Chinese) (19??-1944)
Co-PilotHsian Lai Wen (*) (194?-194?)
CaptainTommy S. Wing (USA) (194?-194?)
CaptainYoung G. Wong (USA) (194?-194?)
Co-PilotK.T. Yu (19??-19??)
CaptainY.H. Yu (1947-1949)
Co-PilotD. Wu (19??-194?)

PilotEddie Wu (19??-194?)

PilotG.D. Wu (19??-194?)

PilotK.C. Wu (19??-194?) (H=XXX)
PilotZidan Wu (19442-1948) (H=300)
Co-PilotBing Zhou (1944-1949)
Co-PilotP.C. Yen (Chinese) (19??-1947)
Co-PilotSamuel S.C. Yen (Chinese) (19??-194?)
Co-Pilot Chu-Zioany Zhou Is this the same person as Co-PilotChu-Hsung Chou ? (194?-194?)