Incredible Then-And-Now Pictures Of Chinese Airports

Today, there are more than 1,400 planes operating in China, nearly three times as many as there were just a decade ago, according to the International Air Transport Association.

More planes need more places to land and take off. So China has plans to build 82 new airports and expand more than 100 existing ones by 2015, according to Forbes.

That kind of growth is unprecedented, especially when you consider the fact that at the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1950, many of the country’s airports were in shambles. Only 200 planes were left in the country — total — according to James Fallows’ book “China Airborne.”

These photos reveal just how much progress China has made, from an aviation backwater to one of the most important markets in the industry.

Here’s what Chungking’s Sanhupa Airport once looked like (in a photo taken between 1940 and 1946). The plane is a wrecked Junker Ju 52/3m, which flew for Eurasia, a Lufthansa subsidiary:

Chongqing (as it’s spelled today) is now a major city, and home to the Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport, which handled nearly 16 million passengers in 2010. The mountains in the background are the same, but the runway is in much better shape:

A similar transformation can be seen in Shanghai. In the 1930s, the city was home to Longhwa Airport. This photo is from 1933:

This was the terminal used by China National Aviation Corporation (CNAC) in the late 1940s:

A plane undergoing maintenance at the airport in the 1940s:

And the view from the air:

Today, the city is served by two much more modern airports. Shanghai Hongqia International opened in the 1960s, and was expanded in the late 1980s.

The terminal is up-to-date:

So is the maintenance operation:

And the view from the air shows a much larger operation:

Thanks to Nancy Allison Wright, the Michiels Family, and Gregory Crouch, author of China’s Wings, for their help in finding and compiling these photos.

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