The Ambassador in China (Stuart) to the Secretary of State

No. 488

Sir: I have the honor to forward, in original and hectograph, the text of a memorandum dated Janary 15, 1947 from Major General John P. Lucas, Chief of the Army Advisory Group, Nanking, which briefly outlines the status of civil aviation in China and makes recommendations for its rehabilitation. This memorandum was prepared by Brigadier General John P. McConnell, the Director of the Air Division, Army Advisory Group, in response to an earlier request from General Marshall1 for a frank and thoroughgoing survey with recommendations on this subject to be made available to Generalissimo Chiang.2

The memorandum was translated into the Chinese language at the Embassy, and on January 21, 1947 I handed a Chinese copy to the Generalissimo, who received it gratefully and promised that he himself would read it through.

On February 7 I met the Generalissimo again, and he informed me that he had read the memorandum carefully and with much interest and subsequently had despatched a copy to General Yu Ta Wei, Minister for Communications, for his perusal and for the attention of Colonel Ango Tai, Director of the Civil Aeronautics Administration. General Yu has been ill for the past fortnight so that no reactions from him have been forthcoming, but Colonel Tai has subsequently requested from General McConnell an English language copy of the memorandum which has been supplied him. At his request an English language copy was also given to T. V. Soong, President of the Executive Yuan.

In the Embassy’s view this memorandum presents an accurate and wholly frank criticism of the conditions under which air travel has been [Page 1008] operating in China, and its suggestions seem entirely acceptable and constructive. There is no doubt that the numerous air tragedies to which Chinese civil aviation has suddenly fallen victim in recent weeks have thoroughly shaken the confidence which Chinese aviation authorities previously displayed both publicly and in negotiations on aviation matters. This confidence arose out of an underestimation of the difficulties surrounding successful operation of modern aircraft, and was reflected in the careless manner in which planes were being loaded and the conditions—meteorological and navigational—under which they were permitted to take off and to attempt to land. The coincidence of the recent accidents and the delivery of this memorandum to the highest officials of the Chinese Government is expected to result in a much more welcome reception for the recommendations contained therein than could otherwise have been expected, and it is hoped that some at first small-scale undertakings along the lines suggested will soon be apparent.

In view of the reference on pages 7 and 83 of the memorandum to the application of Pan American Airways for an Export-Import Bank loan, it is suggested that a copy of this despatch and its enclosure be supplied the Bank.

Respectfully yours,

For the Ambassador:
W. Walton Butterworth

Minister-Counselor of Embassy

Memorandum by the Director of the Air Division of the Army Advisory Group (McConnell) to the Ambassador in China (Stuart)

Subject: Civil Aviation in China


1. This memorandum will attempt to outline briefly the status of civil aviation in China with particular attention to commercial airline operations and facilities, and to make recommendations for the rehabilitation of China’s commercial aviation.


2. In discussing China’s civil aviation system, it is borne in mind that we are attempting to apply the most modern mode of commerce to a land which, due to warfare and economic catastrophes, has been unable to accept it.

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3. Efforts have been made by the Government to promote the development of civil aviation in China, and some progress has been made. Rehabilitation of CNAC4 during the past two years and establishment of another commercial carrier in CATC5 has given the country a new start in commercial aviation.

4. During the past year commercial aviation in China has established a record of safe, efficient operation which is commendable, considering the operational difficulties encountered. Recently, however, China’s commercial aviation suffered catastrophes which were not only of national consequence, but were felt in aviation circles throughout the world. The loss of these commercial aircraft, and the attendant loss of life, within a short period and under the existing circumstances points to more than a mere accident.

[Here follows detailed discussion of elements involved in successful operation of airlines in China.]


9. In view of the foregoing, it is concluded that commercial aviation in China is not satisfactorily organized, is improperly operated, is not adequately supervised or regulated, is not soundly backed financially, is not equipped with the necessary facilities to provide for safe and efficient operations, is undesirably entangled with military aviation, does not receive support and cooperation of military aviation and is attempting a 1946 type of operation with 1926 type of facilities.


10. Commercial aviation in China can be brought up to satisfactory standards by the institution of certain remedies. Some of these remedies can be made applicable immediately, others within the reasonable near future, and still others within a period of time from three to five years.

Immediate remedies:
The first remedial action which should be taken is the establishment of a strong, well-organized, efficient Civil Aeronautics Board. This Board should be composed of personnel who are familiar with the requirements, capabilities and limitations of commercial aviation. The Board should not be made a part of any existing ministry or department of the Government but should be responsible directly to the President of China. It should be directed, empowered, and backed with sufficient financial support to
Designate airways throughout China, to include traffic control areas and a means of authority for clearance of aircraft.
Install, maintain and operate adequate visual and electronic aids to aerial navigation.
Eliminate duplication of such existing aids as are now established.
Designate alternate airdromes for emergency use and provide them with suitable equipment for this purpose.
Establish limitations on personnel and equipment, to include physical and professional qualifications for crew members, maintenance standards for aircraft and accessory equipment, close supervision of passenger loads and weight balance of cargo.
Establish airways regulations and procedures to include flight clearance off and on the airways, approach procedures, control zones and traffic patterns.
Establish and enforce flight regulations to cover weather minimums, clearance authorities, minimum altitudes, instrument approach procedures, accessory aircraft equipment and pilot qualifications.
Take over and operate all of the weather facilities within China as one central weather agency, and make the necessary arrangements for rehabilitation of weather equipment and the proper dissemination of current weather information.
Establish, maintain and operate an adequate single system of airways communications and eliminate the present system of duplication, and in many cases triplication, where these facilities are operated under the supervision of CNAC, CATC, and the CAF.6
Redesignate in conjunction with the CG, CAF, certain military airdromes as civil airdromes (however, this redesignation would not prohibit the military from using the airdromes whenever necessary).
Divorce civil aviation from military aviation but require absolute coordination between the two, to include reciprocal use of facilities.
Consolidate all existing airlines within China under one management and one operational control.
Remedies which can be taken within the reasonable near future:
The construction of a satisfactory network of modern terminal airdromes and alternate landing fields, properly equipped and suitably situated.
The rehabilitation of weather and communications facilities to eliminate duplication, to do away with obsolete equipment, and to install modern equipment and efficient operating technique and procedures.
Remedies which can be taken within the next three to five years:
Replacement of all commercial obsolete aircraft operating on civil airways with new modern, properly equipped and more economical types of aircraft.
Expansion of China’s domestic airways system and establishment of an international system.


11. It is recommended

That a Civil Aeronautics Board be established under the direct supervision of the President of China and separated from any existing ministry or other agency of the Chinese Government to discharge the function set forth in the foregoing. Among the personnel of the Civil Aeronautics Board there should be a small number of expert American advisors. It is my suggestion that the President of China request the President of the United States for the loan of an individual well-qualified in all aspects of the operation of both commercial and military aircraft. This individual should have the unqualified confidence of the Generalissimo and the directive to the Civil Aeronautics Board should include a provision to the effect that his advice would be accepted and placed into immediate effect.
That civil aviation and military aviation be divorced from one another but that close cooperation be assured in the use of common facilities.
That all existing commercial aviation be consolidated under one management, operating and controlling agency.
That a program be established for the construction of satisfactory terminal airdromes and necessary alternate airdromes, properly equipped and suitably situated.
That a program be established with sound financial backing for the rejuvenation of the visual and electronic aids to operation of aircraft.
That all weather agencies be consolidated under the Civil Aeronautics Board.
That all existing airways communications facilities be consolidated under the Civil Aeronautics Board.
That a program be established looking toward the retirement of the present obsolete aircraft as they become unserviceable and their replacement with modern and more economical aircraft.
That China expand its commercial aviation into international operations at the earliest possible moment.

J. P. McConnell

Brigadier General, USA

John P. Lucas
Major General, USA
Chief, Army Advisory Group

  1. General of the Army George C. Marshall, Special Representative of President Truman in China, December 1945–January 1947; he became Secretary of State, January 21, 1947.
  2. Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, President of the National Government of the Republic of China.
  3. Section on “Sound and sufficient financial support,” not printed.
  4. China National Aviation Corporation.
  5. Central Air Transport Corporation.
  6. Chinese Air Force.