China Airlines was founded in 1959 with just one C54 and two PBYs. As the 2000’s began, the airline had six A340-300s, including Tail #B-18801. Let’s learn why this luxurious, long-haul plane was vital to China Airlines’ success in expanding its international route. Find out how you can have your own piece of this exciting time in aviation history.
Over the last several decades China Airlines has transformed from a small, government owned carrier with local charter flights, to a major airline offering international routes to all parts of the globe. Its first domestic service was offered in October 1962, a flight from Taipei to Hualien. In 1966, it offered its first international route, a flight from Taipei to then Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam). From there, the airline began expanding its trans-Pacific Ocean and its European routes.
Fast Fact:The Republic of China is commonly known as Taiwan and The People's Republic of China is commonly known as China. They share a history but are seperate states. China Airlines is the national carrier of Taiwan (The Republic of China) and has only been permitted to land on mainland China since 2003. It was the first carrier to legally fly between Taiwan and the mainland since their civil war.
Today, China Airlines remains Taiwan’s national carrier and its largest. It operates 1400+ flights per week (passenger and cargo) to 102 countries, with plans to expand its North American, European, and Oceanian routes with its newest long-haul fleet. Since 2011, it has been a part of SkyTeam air alliance. It is owned by The China Airlines Group, a transportation conglomerate based in Taiwan.
In 2001, China Airlines ordered five A340-300s directly from Airbus. The first, B-18801, was delivered in April 2001. The A340-300 was used for years to advance its routes like Taipei-to- Seattle/Houston, and to destinations such as Brisbane, Vienna, and London. It was used mostly for long-haul service to Australia, North America, and Europe. As more fuel efficient aircraft came on the market, the decision was made to retire the A340-300, replacing their flights with A350-900s.
B-18801 first arrived in Taipei, Taiwan after a 14 hour non-stop flight from Toulouse, France in April 2001. The four engine plane was configured into three classes, with 8 First class, 30 Dynasty (business) class, and 220 Economy class seats. At the time, it was called “the most luxurious” jet in China Airlines’ fleet, and was noted for its quietness and reliability. After 14 years of service, B-18801 flew its last flight on March 6, 2015 from Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport (TPE) in Taipei to Southern California Logistics Airport (VCV) in Victorville, CA.
Dave Hall, owner of MotoArt Studios in Torrance, CA, was excited to find B-18801 in Victorville. He wasted no time in acquiring the plane and getting his crew out to VCV. As with all of the airplanes acquired by the company, the team discussed the best way to approach the careful dissection.
The teardown was done in two phases.
Phase 1: The tail was what Dave Hall was initially most excited about. “We would have loved to be able to preserve the plum blossom logo and offer PlaneTags made from its rich pink colors,” said Dave. While standing on a 60 foot lift to make the first cut, they discovered that the entire tail was made from composite and not aluminum. “We were disappointed, to say the least,” he said. “But we were able to get the blue underbelly of the plane.”
Phase 2: After the interiors were removed, the crew later returned to complete the teardown. This phase secured the crown area, fuselage windows and the China Airlines logo. The windows will be upcycled into fuselage mirrors.
Usually the planes that MotoArt receives are covered over with another layer of paint and it isn’t always immediately known whether the paint can be removed to reveal the original color. In this case, the shop was glad to see that the A340’s white paint was easy to remove, revealing its original colors. From this stage, parts will be upcycled into functional art pieces such as airplane window mirrors. The airplane skin will become PlaneTags, and sent out to fulfill orders all over the world.
Each PlaneTag is engraved with the airline, plane type and tail number and comes attached to the collectible card with a sturdy ring. As they come from the same plane, B-18801, they will be numbered as part of a limited edition. The colors are lavender, blue, white, and combinations, cut from the underbelly and the lettering on the side of the fuselage. All colors can be personalized with a name, address and phone number on the back. They are perfect to keep for yourself, for a unique Father’s Day gift, as an aviation gift for avgeeks, airplane enthusiasts, or a pilot. They are also great mementos and collectible heirlooms, to pass down the love of planes to the next generation.