A Chinese video production crew visited the Champaign Aviation Museum Tuesday to film footage for an online show.
Dave Shiffer, Executive Director of Aviation Museum and a pilot of the B-25 bomber, said the crew was filming for a travel program showing different places for Chinese residents to visit. Shiffer said the idea of filming the museum was brought up a week and a half ago.
The crew was from the Beijing WanMei Cultural Media Company filming a show for the website Autohome.com.cn. The show averages an audience of 1.6 million viewers per episode according to show producer Xiaobei Shi.
Shiffer said the museum has previously had visitors from England, Germany, Japan and the Netherlands.
“This is really the first time – especially from China – where we’ve had people that are doing a program just for casual travel,” Shiffer said. “But we do get people from all over the world.”
During the visit, the crew had the opportunity to film a B-25 bomber as it was taken out of a hangar and prepared for flight. Multiple crew members were inside the bomber as it flew away from the museum.
Shen Wang, one of the online show’s host, said he was speechless getting to be inside the bomber as it took off.
The B-25 bomber holds a historical significance with the country of China. Shiffer explained during the Doolittle Raid 16 B-25 bombers took off to bomb mainland Japan.
“They ended up crash landing along the Chinese coast and many of the Chinese villages and villagers hid and smuggled the pilots and crews of these airplanes through the forest and jungles of China into a base where the Americans could get them,” Shiffer said. “It actually was very dangerous for them to do that because that area was occupied by Japanese.”
Hao Luo, the show’s other host, said the bomber holds a deep meaning because a lot of Chinese people sacrificed their lives to protect the Americans.
“I think this is important to their history as well as ours,” Pilot Eric Kindig said. “They were trying to get the Japanese off their backs as we were too. It’s kind of neat to be able to share this.”
Speaking on the purpose of the show, Luo said a lot of people in China have interest in cars and the show provides a way of documenting the world through different vehicles.
“For a lot of Chinese this is a way for them to really see the world, experience the world,” Luo said.
In addition to car fanatics, Luo said there are also aviation fanatics and the show allows them to get a better experience of aviation.
Shiffer said this visit could help promote the museum, Urbana and other surrounding areas.
“I think this is a very important opportunity for the area,” Shiffer said. “We have a lot of volunteers from Springfield and even Dayton and Columbus and to have more travelers coming in from China to see us they’re going to be staying in Springfield at the hotels, they’re probably going to go down to Dayton and maybe see some other aviation sites, they’re probably flying into either Dayton or Columbus – it’s really going to lift all boats.”
Nick Walton can be reached at 937-652-1331 Ext. 1777 or on Twitter @UDCWalton.