Today’s a sad day for China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force and the country’s “girl power” advocates, as together they mourn the tragic death of one of the most celebrated women for both these camps. Her name was Yu Xu, a PLAAF Captain, one of China’s first ever female combat-role fighter pilots and a member of the Air Force “August 1st” Aerobatics Team. That’s not all, she was also among the first to fly the cutting edge Chengdu J-10 multirole fighter plane when it was introduced to the PLAAF in the 2000s. She was killed in a freak accident while training with her fellow aerobatics pilots over the weekend.
CNN reports that Captain Yu, 30 years old, was engaged in a routine training flight last Saturday November 13, in preparation for the next aerobatic performance of the “August 1st ”. The exact details of what happened next have not been officially divulged by the Chinese military command. However, eyewitnesses at Hebei province where the tragedy occurred, along with knowledgeable military sources, have passed along to state-run media several varied, and often contradictory accounts as pertaining to Yu’s fate.
The most prevailing story, released by China Daily, was that Captain Yu, who was flying a two- seater J-10SY trainer with a male copilot when a practice maneuver gone wrong caused their plane to collide with another J-10 in the exercise. With the J-10SY damaged beyond the capability to fly, Yu and her copilot ejected from their stricken aircraft. Although she was successful in bailing out, another passing J-10 accidentally struck Yu in mid-air at top flight speed, killing her in an instant. Her copilot parachuted to the ground without incident, and the other J-10 that initially collided with Yu’s plane also landed safely.
Military investigators have managed to recover the “black box” flight recorder from the wreckage of Captain Yu’s plane, and its contents will figure into their official investigation of the event. Yu Xu was born in Chengdu City, once seat of the olden state of Shu Han from the celebrated Three Kingdoms period, and is today the capital of Sichuan province. She aspired to be a pilot and enrolled at PLA Air Force Aviation Academy. Yu was one of the first 16 female academy graduates to qualify as fighter pilots, and further became one of four from this group certified to fly the J-10, considered the first contemporary designed Chinese jet to be the equal in performance to Western fighters. Incidentally, the J-10 was built by the Chengdu Aircraft Corporation, headquartered at her home city.
Considered a pioneer for female Chinese pilots and a role model for young women to join the Chinese military, Yu’s death was announced on social media by the Sichuan Communist Youth League.
Photo Credit to http://www.scmp.com/