Chinese film crew visits Urbana airport

The group was checking out airplanes used in World War II.

The Champaign Aviation Museum received a special visit from a Chinese travel show featuring a flight in the historic B-25 bomber, “Champaign Gal” .

Over 20 members of the Chinese online travel show came to the Urbana Municipal Airport last week.

The show is an online travel log. The two hosts travel the globe portraying the world through automobile culture to an audience of 30 million in China, where driving as an experience rather than from one point to another is starting to catch on, according to producers.

The group traveled to Michigan to visit the Walter P. Chrysler Museum and to learn about the history of Jeep, a brand with a rich World War II past.

The producers took the opportunity to see the birthplace of aviation and check out planes used during WWII, in particular the B-25 bomber and the rebuild of the B-17 bomber in Urbana.

Dave Shiffer, director of the Champaign Aviation Museum, was contacted by the producers a week before the visit.

“They wanted to do something that would stand out in their program and we thought the flight would look really good on film,” Shiffer said.

The opportunity to fly in an historical plane was the key selling point over other attractions in the area according, to producer Xiaobei Shi.

The B-25 has history in China through the Doolittle Raid, which occurred 6 months after Pearl Harbor. Sixteen B-25’s dropped bombs on mainland Japan and crashed landed alongside the Chinese eastern coast. Many Chinese villagers smuggled the crashed crews through jungles into a base where Americans could get them, Shiffer said.

“It was really dangerous for them because the area was occupied by the Japanese. Thousands of Chinese villagers were killed during the war.”

The camera crew placed multiple cameras on the inside of the bomber while others grabbed views from the outside including a drone flying overhead.

The two hosts Hao Luo and Shen Wang helped pilots Shiffer and Eric Kindig rotate the propellers before the flight and after wiped excess oil off the outside of the plane. Shiffer and Kindig were happy to oblige the hosts’ requests to be a part of the action.

The hosts were eager to capture the historical feeling of the flight. “You can’t really experience it until you get into it,” Wang said. “In this case you could hear and smell everything.”

This is not the first time the museum has had guests from outside the country. “Quite often we have people from Europe come visit,” Kindig said. Shiffer is hopeful that the exposure will bring Chinese travelers to the area.

The show is headed to California to explore the Rubicon Trail.

They expect the project to be done by Aug. 22 when they get back to Beijing.

About the Author