CAAC's fleet during the 1980s was an odd mix of vintage and modern types ranging from IL-14s to Tridents to A310s. One of the new types that was chosen for replacement of the short-medium haul HS Trident 2s and Ilyushin IL-18s was the McDonnell Douglas MD-80. In fact the MD-82/83 was the first western type to be license constructed in China, when in 1987 the first of 35 aircraft were assembled by the Shanghai Aviation Industrial Corporation. This initial success would no doubt help lead McDonnell Douglas down the ill-fated MD-90 Trunkliner path they followed, however despite the Trunkliner's failure and though eclipsed in the 1990s by Boeing 737s, and later A320s, the MD-80 would continue to be a major component of the fleet of several Chinese airlines into the 2000s.
China Eastern (MU) emerged in June 1988 from the Shanghai regional bureau of the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) which had operated all air services within China since its formation in 1954. China Eastern was one of the six state-owned children of CAAC but as with its Beijing and Guangzhou based siblings Air China and China Southern it held a distinct advantage over the other three airlines due to its hub location. The fleet of CAAC was split between its progenitors with China Eastern acquiring 5 A310s, 3 BAE 146s, 5 MD-80s, 3 Shorts 360s and several AN-24s and Y-7 turboprops. Re-equipment was on the cards though in the form of a mixed fleet of Airbus A300s, McDonnell Douglas MD-11s and Fokker 100s.
I'm Richard Stretton: a fan of classic airliners and airlines who enjoys exploring their history through my collection of die-cast airliners. If you enjoy the site please donate whatever you can to help keep it running: