Tak­ing off

China’s first car­rier­borne fighter jet pi­lot ded­i­cated to train­ing pi­lot teams

Global Times - Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - Global Times – Agen­cies

It was a dream from child­hood to fly into the blue sky for Dai Ming­meng, who be­came the first Chi­nese pi­lot to suc­cess­fully land on and take off from China’s first air­craft car­rier, in a J-15 fighter jet in 2012.

Two months af­ter China com­mis­sioned the Liaon­ing car­rier in Septem­ber 2012, Dai landed a J-15 on the car­rier’s flight deck, the first Chi­nese pi­lot to achieve the feat. And he then be­gan train­ing car­rier-based fighter jet com­man­ders and drill­mas­ters.

On De­cem­ber 18, Dai was se­lected as one of the 100 rep­re­sen­ta­tives who made great con­tri­bu­tions to China’s re­form and open­ing-up.

Mov­ing to­ward glory

Re­call­ing what hap­pened on Novem­ber 23, Dai said that he was calm as usual and came to the con­trol tower early to make prepa­ra­tions for fly­ing. “No one talked to me. The at­mos­phere was heav­ier than usual,” Dai said.

“I never doubt my­self. Be­fore the first land­ing, we flew around the Liaon­ing more than 500 times and touched the deck of the air­craft car­rier dur­ing the flight dozens of times. When the fighter jet took off, I waved to oth­ers,” Dai said.

Around 9 am, Dai’s fighter came near the air­craft car­rier with roar. The jet took the first turn and an­other turn, and put down the un­der­car­riage and the ar­rest­ing hook. When the jet’s back wheel touched the deck, its ar­rest­ing hook firmly caught the ar­rest­ing gears in­stalled on the deck. The fighter jet stopped.

“We suc­ceeded!” shouted the peo­ple who waited on the deck, with tears of joy.

Sun Cong, the chief de­signer of the J-15, hugged Dai once he got out of the jet. Oth­ers queued to give him a hug.

In an ar­ti­cle pub­lished in the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army (PLA) Daily in Oc­to­ber 2018, Dai wrote, “That was the most un­for­get­table day in my life… We achieved a dream that the Chi­nese have dreamed for a hun­dred years. Ev­ery time I re­call the mo­ment of re­al­iz­ing the dream, I am filled with pas­sion and en­thu­si­asm.”

Seek­ing the way

The glo­ri­ous mo­ment did not come from noth­ing. It was built on the sweat and ef­forts of many pi­lots.

Song Zhong­ping, a mil­i­tary ex­pert and TV com­men­ta­tor, told the Global Times that the work of pi­lots of fighter jets on air­craft car­ri­ers is very dan­ger­ous. “It’s like danc­ing on the edge of the knife. A mi­nor er­ror would cost the life of a pi­lot. And China’s first group of pi­lots of this kind man­aged to over­come these dif­fi­cul­ties with­out any as­sis­tance.”

Song said that China’s first pi­lots for fighter jets of air­craft car­ri­ers were se­lected from the PLA Navy and PLA Air Force. “They were trained to be pi­lots by fly­ing from the land. Many skills of op­er­at­ing the fighter jets for air­craft car­ri­ers are dif­fer­ent, some­times even op­po­site, to what they had learned pre­vi­ously, which makes it more dif­fi­cult to train these pi­lots.”

Dai was trained in a PLA Air Force flight academy in Baod­ing, North China’s He­bei Prov­ince and was de­ployed to the PLA Navy to fly fighter jets. He op­er­ated 16 kinds of fighter jets, dealt with dozens of ex­tremely dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tions and twice es­caped from the door of death.

While Dai was fly­ing fighter jets for the PLA Navy, China started to re­al­ize its air­craft car­rier dream step by step. It brought the air­craft car­rier Varyag from Ukraine in 1998. The car­rier was re­built for the PLA Navy as the Liaon­ing.

In Septem­ber 2006, the PLA Navy be­gan to se­lect fighter jet pi­lots for the air­craft car­rier. Dai was among the first group of pi­lots.

With­out ex­pe­ri­ence, avail­able teach­ing ma­te­ri­als or as­sis­tance from other coun­tries, Dai and other pi­lots be­gan to pre­pare for fly­ing and land­ing fighter jets from the air­craft car­rier.

“It’s like learn­ing a course with­out a teacher, and we were re­quired to give a per­fect per­for­mance,” Dai said.

The run­way on the air­craft car­rier is about one­tenth the length of one on land. In ad­di­tion, the car­rier is in mo­tion.

Dai’s first try to catch the ar­rest­ing gear was at­tempted on an ex­per­i­men­tal site on land. Dai put down the ar­rest­ing hook and caught the ar­rest­ing gear. The speed of the jet de­creased from 200 kilo­me­ters per hour to zero within 2 sec­onds.

He felt the blood of his whole body rush into his head – it was like a sud­den stop dur­ing a sprint. Af­ter a mo­ment of mem­ory loss, Dai found his jet stopped safe and sound.

Be­fore the suc­cess­ful land­ing on Novem­ber 23, 2012, Dai un­der­went more than 400 test flights and flew around the air­craft car­rier 100 times.

Af­ter Dai, an­other four pi­lots suc­cess­fully took off and landed on the Liaon­ing. The PLA Navy en­tered into the air­craft car­rier era.

For the na­tion

Dai was hon­ored as a “hero fighter jet pi­lot for air­craft car­ri­ers” in Au­gust 2014. But he did not rest on this glory. “When can China train its own fighter jets pi­lots in quan­tity and qual­ity?” Dai has con­tin­u­ally asked him­self this ques­tion, be­cause a group of ex­pe­ri­enced fighter jet pi­lots is nec­es­sary for the air­craft to have com­bat ca­pa­bil­ity. A pi­lot group was founded un­der the guid­ance of Dai. The group is work­ing on writ­ing text­books, mak­ing teach­ing cour­ses and cur­ricu­lum and or­ga­niz­ing prac­tice. By op­er­at­ing the fighter jet him­self, Dai shows fly­ing skills to stu­dents, and an­a­lyzes and com­ments on stu­dents’ per­for­mances.

In De­cem­ber 2016, board­ing the Liaon­ing, Dai led a group of young fighter jet pi­lots to the air­craft car­rier to un­dergo com­bat drills in for­eign wa­ters.

“In the wa­ters of Bo­hai, the Yel­low Sea, the East China Sea and the South China Sea, we un­der­went com­bat drills and tested the com­mand process and the ca­pa­bil­ity of the air­craft fleet, which also marks the trans­for­ma­tion of the PLA Navy,” Dai said.

With the ef­forts of Dai and other pi­lots, China has be­come one of the few coun­tries that could in­de­pen­dently train pi­lots for the air­craft car­rier.

“There are three things in a pi­lot’s mind – the blue sky, the mis­sion and our moth­er­land. When I op­er­ate a fighter jet in the blue sky, I feel my life is closely con­nected with my mis­sion and my coun­try. I am em­braced by hap­pi­ness. I thank my coun­try, which is get­ting pow­er­ful and mak­ing our fleet mov­ing for­ward,” Dai wrote in the ar­ti­cle in the PLA Daily.

Pho­tos: VCG

A J-15 takes off from the Liaon­ing. In­set: Dai Ming­meng

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.