Boeing Model 281

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Boeing Model 281




In 1934, the Guangdong Air Force acquired 11 Boeing 281s, which included 1 demonstration aircraft, from the American Curtiss Company. The initial demonstration aircraft, No. X12271, reached Guangzhou in September of that year and unfortunately crashed shortly after the flight demonstration. Despite this incident, the Guangdong Air Force was still impressed by the aircraft and it did not impact their future procurement plans. On September 15th, 1934, a Boeing 281, piloted by American E.D. Dorsey, flew to Hangzhou, Jianqiao Central Aviation School to conduct a demonstration for the Nanjing government. Tragically, the aircraft crashed on November 27th of the same year.

In December of that year, ten Boeing 281 aircraft were delivered to China. Upon their arrival in Shanghai, the batch was transferred by rail to the Shaoguan Aircraft Manufacturing Factory in Guangdong for assembly, and subsequently joined the 2nd Aircraft Fleet of the Guangdong Air Force within the same year.

On August 18th, 1936, the Guangdong Air Force demonstrated their reluctance to follow Chen Jiye in the civil war by collectively flying their aircraft to join the Nanjing Central Air Force. All 10 Boeing 281s also headed north, underwent a change in appearance to match the Central Air Force’s livery, and were subsequently assigned to the 17th Squadron of the 3rd Battalion to safeguard Beijing and Tibet after being numbered accordingly.

Following the outbreak of the Battle of Shanghai, the 17th Squadron, under the leadership of Captain Huang Fengyang, engaged in two aerial battles against the invading enemy aircraft. On 8.15 and 8.18 (Month and day), they successfully shot down 2 enemy bombers over Nanjing and Jurong, respectively. Furthermore, during the battle over Wusong on 8.22, they managed to shoot down an additional 2 enemy bombers. Unfortunately, No. 1702 was shot down by the enemy, resulting in the loss of squad leader Tai Jiazhu, who was killed in action.

On September 19th, an enemy aircraft was successfully shot down, but unfortunately, both the 1701 and 1703 aircraft were hit by the enemy. Huang Zizhan, a team member, managed to parachute to safety, while Liu Lanqing tragically lost his life. Later that same day, the team leader piloted his aircraft No. 1705 over Nanjing, where he was attacked by an enemy plane and had to parachute while sustaining injuries. During the battles over Nanjing on September 22nd and October 12th, Captain Huang Yangyang displayed exceptional skill by shooting down two enemy planes single-handedly. However, the No. 1707 aircraft flown by squad leader Huang Zizhan was shot and injured, forcing him to make an emergency landing. Despite their valiant efforts in escorting bombers and defending Nanjing against the Japanese army, the Boeing 281 squadron faced challenges due to limited numbers, insufficient technical support, and the Japanese blockade. As a result, the dispatch rate of these elite fighters declined due to a lack of spare parts. In order to protect the remaining aircraft, they had to disassemble the severely damaged ones. Eventually, Nanjing fell, leading to the loss of all combat effectiveness and the disbandment of the squadron.

Technical Data


Crew - 1

Length - 7.19 m

Height - 2.4 m

Wingspan - 8.52 m

Empty Weight - 996 kg

Gross Weight - 1,524 kg

Powerplant - 1 x Pratt & Whitney R-1340-33 Radial Engine (450 kW)

Max Speed - 378 km/h

Service Ceiling - 8,300 m

Range - 1,000 km


1 x 7.62 Browning Machine Gun + 1 x 12.7mm Browning Machine Gun (Only configuration sold to China)

2 x 100 lb Bombs









(Book) Encyclopedia of Chinese Aircraft, Vol.1 - Page 24 - 26

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