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A Norwegian and a Dane in China
© Lennart Andersson

In the summer of 1933 Norwegian Reidar Aagaard was selling aircraft in China as a representative of the firm Compagnia Italiana D'Estremo Oriente in Shanghai, which represented Breda aircraft in China. Aagaard, who was born in Tønsberg, was a former Norwegian Navy pilot. He maintains that he managed to sell two aircraft to Fukien Province, but no details are known. According to an American intelligence report dated 1 March 1935 a Breda two-seat open low-wing aircraft was stored in Shanghai.

Aagaard returned to Norway and during the Spanish Civil War he joined Franco's Nationalists and flew troops from Morocco to Spain. In 1937 he was lecturing about aviation in China and showing pictures. Following Germany's occupation of Norway he became an Abwehr agent and after the war he was punished for his collaboration with the Germans.

Christian Johannsen was trained as a pilot in the German air force during World War I and after the war he was employed as an airline pilot in Denmark. In the spring of 1929 he was hired as a flying instructor by the aviation service of the Chinese Navy at Amoy in Fukien. When the Chinese Navy purchased four Avro Avian IV two-seat training biplanes, it was decided to fly one of them all the way from Great Britain to China. A Navy officer named Chen Wen-lin, who had learnt to fly at the German Bäumler aviation school, and Commander Y T Barr (Barr Yu-tsao) were ordered do the flight, but Barr was soon replaced by Johannsen. Chen had been appointed Chief of the Naval Aeronautical Bureau at Amoy in 1926.

The aircraft was registered X-CRIA and named "Amoy/Hsiamen". Chen and Johannsen left London on 2 March and crossed the coast between Lympne and Dover in a stiff headwind. Whilst over the Channel engine trouble developed and they had to turn back. The machine lost height as they approached Dover, but they managed to land just inland. A gust of wind caught the machine and tipped it on its propeller, but after repairs it left for the second time on the 13th.

They finally landed at Tseng Chuan aerodrome, Amoy, on 12 May and were met with a tumultuous welcome on the occasion of the greatest long-distance flight in Chinese history. During the flight they had visited Berlin, Prague, Vienna. Budapest, Adrianople, Aleppo, Basra, Calcutta, Hanoi and Canton. Ten days later they continued to Nanking after having superintended the erection of the other three Avians, including one fitted out as a floatplane.

Johansen was not satisfied with the conditions at Amoy and soon handed in his resignation. He left for Denmark on 5 October 1929.

Interview with Chen Wen-lin in the South China Morning post: My first impression of him was that he was very young. He informed me that he was 28, but he looked much younger. Speaking perfect English as well as German, he showed himself to be not only a brilliant aviator but a scholar. From his conversation one would never have imagined that he had just completed one of the most outstanding flights in history - in fact he had made Chinese aviation history.

If you would like to know more about Chinese aviation history you should get this bok:


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(c) Lennart Andersson