Sunday, April 08, 2012

Zhou Enlai's jet awaits museum

The plane of the late premier Zhou Enlai stands abandoned in a field in Feidong county, Anhui province. 
Wang Zhiqiang / for China Daily 

 The special plane of the late premier Zhou Enlai has stood abandoned in a field in Feidong county, East China's Anhui province, for about two years, according to the Beijing-based China Youth Daily.

The jet, China Air force 50050, is perched on three concrete blocks between the provincial expressway and a garden of rapeseed flowers, and has become a nesting site for birds and an attraction for passers-by to scrawl their names on.

"The colossus arrived here in late 2010 to be an exhibit at a planned museum commemorating premier Zhou," said Wang Yuhong, deputy secretary of Jiaotou village's Party committee.

"It was bought and transported here by a businessman in Hefei. The transportation alone cost 300,000 yuan ($48,000)," Wang said.

Zhang Shengkuan, the businessman, told China Daily he bought the jet at an auction in 2003 for 1.27 million yuan out of "respect for the great leader" and a "personal interest in aircraft".

Zhang said he also had a large collection of other aviation "treasures" such as retired fighter planes.

The museum he intends to build for the plane is still in the planning phase and "hopefully will be open to the public by the end of next year", Wang, the local official, told China Daily.

Zhang said that the plane, 40 meters long with a 30-meter wingspan, was bought by the central government from the UK aircraft maker Hawker Beechcraft in the 1960s.

After a simple interior renovation, it later became the special plane for Zhou Enlai, the first premier of China, from 1949 to 1976. It carried him throughout China and to a dozen other countries, including Vietnam and Mongolia.

It was taken out of service in the 1980s and lent to an exhibition company in Lianyungang, Jiangsu province, "with the government's approval".

"Although the engine of the plane is missing, the entire interior has been preserved," Zhang said. "And by the time it is open to the public, visitors will be able to see the desk, the seat and a Simmons bed that premier Zhou once slept on."


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