BY SILVI WRITER
The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force is to recruit 40 female student pilots nationwide in 2019, according to its recruitment bureau, Xinhua reported on Sunday, which marks the 69th birthday of the force.
The nationwide recruitment, the 12th of its kind, will be open to high school graduates aged between 17 and 20, said Fang Chuanhong, deputy head of the bureau.
In the past three years, the quality of PLA Air Force recruitment has increased significantly, with new recruits’ overall national college entrance examination scores reaching the threshold of China’s first-tier universities, Fang said.
The Chinese Air Force has been cooperating with top universities in training aviation talent, and 78 percent of the first list of their jointly trained pilots are now incorporated into combat positions, said Fang.
Furthermore, the Chinese Air Force will also enroll undergraduates under 24 years of age who pass political, physical and psychological tests.
The last time the Air Force recruited female pilots was in 2017.
China enrolled its first female pilots in 1951 and since then about 580 belonging to 10 generations have joined the Air Force. The first seven generations of female pilots flew only transport planes.
In the selection for the eighth generation in 2005, the Air Force began to open the post of fighter jet pilot to applicants and more than 200,000 female graduates from high schools around the country applied. A total of 35 were selected and sent to the PLA Air Force No 3 Flight Academy and 16 of them graduated and became fighter jet pilots.
She who will always be remembered
But there is one name that must be always remembered: Captain Yu Xu.
She, then a member of the PLA August 1st Air Demonstration Team, deceased in an accident in Nov, 2016, during flight training in Hebei province, aged 30.
Born in 1986, Yu was from Chongzhou in Sichuan province. She joined the military in 2005 as a student at the PLA Air Force Aviation University. She graduated in 2009, becoming one of the first 16 Chinese women pilots capable of flying fighter jets.
Yu took part in the National Day Parade on Oct 1, 2009, as she piloted a JL-8 trainer jet above Tian’anmen Square. In July 2012, she flew a J-10 fighter, becoming the first woman to operate the advanced aircraft.
Yu was one of only four women qualified to fly the third-generation J-10.
She had become a flight squadron commander, and fans gave her the nickname Golden Peafowl.
One of the world’s lowest
In civil aviation, China’s proportion of female pilots – at 1.3 percent – is one of the world’s lowest, which analysts and pilots attribute to social perceptions and male-centric hiring practices by Chinese airlines, according to Reuters.
At the end of 2017, 713 women in China held a license to fly civilian aircraft, compared with 55,052 men.
Chinese carriers will need 128,000 new pilots over the next two decades, according to forecasts by planemaker Boeing Co, and the shortfall has so far prompted airlines to aggressively hire foreign captains and Chinese regulators to relax physical entry requirements for cadets.
“The mission is to start cutting down the thorns that cover this road, to make it easier for those who come after us,” said Chen Jingxian, a Shanghai-based lawyer who learned to fly in the United States and is among those urging change.