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.
China Eastern received its first A300 (B-2306) in November 1989. The first three were joined from 1993 by another six which completed the replacement of the legacy Airbus A310s inherited from CAAC. The takeover of China Northwest in 2002 saw an additional three frames added creating the largest A300 fleet in China. The three earliest aircraft were converted to freighters in 2007 but the venerable twin-jet continued in passenger service with China Eastern until June 2014. The last revenue flight was operated by one of the former China Northwest aircraft, B-2330 originally delivered in February 1996, between Shenzhen and Shanghai Hongqiao on 6th June. She along with five others has subsequently joined Uni-Top Airlines of Wuhan who is converting them all to freighter configuration.
For lower density medium haul services China Eastern initially continued to grow its MD-82 fleet which reached 15 aircraft by June 1993. As is often the case with the large Chinese airlines replacement of the MD-80s didn't result in fleet standardisation. In 1998 both the first 737-300s and A320s had arrived and the two types would go on to share the spoils of further orders though the Airbus A320 series has always had a significantly larger place in the fleet than the 737. Alongside the Boeing and Airbus types however China Eastern also renewed its association with McDonnell Douglas.
The MD-90 was a re-engined and stretched MD-80, which initially appeared as if it would have successful sales within China when MDD signed an agreement with China National Aero-Technology and Export Corp (CATIC) for the latter to license produce MD-90s. Issues with supplying the tooling to China and the eventual merger of MDD with Boeing led to the Trunkliner programme’s cancellation in 1988 with only two aircraft produced. China Eastern, already an MD-80 operator, did take nine US built MD-90s into service from 1997 with B-2270 being the last delivered, in March 1999. All were sold to Delta Air Lines in 2010 where this frame has become N928DN.
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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: