Formed in 1929 by the Chinese government and the Curtiss-Wright Corporation, the China National Aviation Corporation (CNAC) distinguished itself as the “first to fly the Hump” delivering essential supplies and personnel to US forces and allies in the China-Burma-India Theater. In 1933 the US stake was transferred to Pan American Airways.

CNAC headquartered in Shanghai until mid-1937 when the Japanese invaded China. Next it based in Hong Kong until after the attack on Pearl Harbor when Hong Kong also was occupied by the Japanese. From 1942 through 1945 Calcutta became CNAC’s principal base of operations. The headquarters returned to Shanghai early in 1946 and remained there until the Communist takeover in 1949.

CNAC gained stature among Chinese for its transport of personnel and supplies to and from various Flying Tiger bases. After July 4, 1942, when the Flying Tigers disbanded, many Tiger pilots joined CNAC. Flying 150 hours a month in unarmed C-47 transports without modern navigational aides, these pilots sought cloudy weather or flew at night to avoid Japanese fighter planes. From April 1942, when the Burma Road was lost, to August 1945, CNAC crews made more than 38,000 trips over the Hump, transporting approximately 114,500 tons of people and supplies.

Our DC-3, N877MG, began its story in Long Beach as one of 300 C-47Bs manufactured specifically for CNAC service over the Hump. While the C-47 (military version) and DC-3 (civilian version) normally have two tanks inboard of each engine, the CNAC version allowed installation of a third “long range” tank outboard each engine. Beginning on August 16, 1944, N877MG was flown to Miami, then Calcutta; painted in the livery of CNAC aircraft no. 100; and entered service over the Hump. Today it is the only known, airworthy survivor of CNAC service.

John Sessions

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