First woman to fly China’s J-10 fighter killed in crash

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

The first woman to fly China’s J-10 fighter plane was killed in a crash dur­ing an aer­o­bat­ics train­ing ex­er­cise, state-run me­dia re­ported yes­ter­day. Yu Xu, 30, a mem­ber of the Chi­nese air force’s “Au­gust 1st” aer­o­batic dis­play team, ejected from her air­craft dur­ing a train­ing ex­er­cise in the north­ern prov­ince of He­bei at the week­end, the China Daily news­pa­per said. She hit the wing of an­other jet and was killed, it said, although her male co-pi­lot ejected safely and sur­vived. “As one of only four fe­male pi­lots in the coun­try ca­pa­ble of fly­ing do­mes­ti­cally made fighter jets, her death comes as a tremen­dous loss to the Chi­nese air force,” the Global Times news­pa­per said.

Yu, from Chongzhou in the south­west­ern prov­ince of Sichuan, joined the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army (PLA) Air Force in 2005, re­ports said. She grad­u­ated from train­ing four years later, one of the first 16 Chi­nese women pi­lots qual­i­fied to fly fighter jets, the China Daily said, and in July 2012 was the first woman to fly the J-10. Fans dubbed her the “golden peafowl”, it added. Yu was seen as a pi­o­neer­ing trail­blazer in a coun­try which en­shrines women’s rights but where tra­di­tional val­ues are still wide­spread.

Users on the Twit­ter-like Weibo so­cial me­dia ser­vice posted pictures of can­dles in her mem­ory, with thou­sands mourn­ing her death. “We praise her not as an in­di­vid­ual, but for the spirit she trans­mit­ted to us, be­com­ing the ideal ve­hi­cle for ev­ery­one’s hopes,” wrote one user. Oth­ers raised ques­tions about the crash. “Rather than stir­ring up emo­tion, the most im­por­tant thing is to in­ves­ti­gate why this ac­ci­dent oc­curred, was it a prob­lem with the de­sign prob­lem in the fighter, or in the rules of op­er­a­tion, or in in­ad­e­quate train­ing,” wrote one. “Only by as­cer­tain­ing the causes can we en­sure it doesn’t hap­pen again.”

Jump­suits and sun­glasses

Yu rose to be­come a flight squadron leader and ac­cord­ing to the Global Times dreamed of be­com­ing an astro­naut. She was one of two fe­male mem­bers of the Au­gust 1st team-named for the date of the found­ing of the PLApic­tured at China’s pre­mier air show in Zhuhai two years ago. The pair strode to their fighter planes in lock-step with male pi­lots, all wear­ing iden­ti­cal green jump­suits and sun­glasses. At the time the China Daily news­pa­per quoted Wang Yan’an, deputy ed­i­tor of Aerospace Knowl­edge mag­a­zine, as say­ing: “Fe­male pi­lots have learned to fly cut­ting-edge fighter jets in the Chi­nese air force. “It means the air force has di­ver­si­fied its pi­lot pool and can re­cruit more fe­male pi­lots.” — AFP

ZHUHAI: Photo shows Chi­nese fe­male J-10 fighter pi­lot Yu Xu get­ting ready to per­form at the Air­show China in Zhuhai, south China’s Guang­dong prov­ince. The first woman to fly China’s J-10 fighter plane was killed in a crash dur­ing an aer­o­bat­ics train­ing ex­er­cise, state-run me­dia re­ported yes­ter­day. — AFP

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