China's first female pilot of a J-10 fighter jet died in a flying accident during a routine flight training on Saturday, a day after air force day was celebrated in the nation.
The 30-year-old pilot, Yu Xu was flying with a male co-pilot when her plane plunged to the ground in Hebei province. The male pilot, who was injured in the accident, managed to eject from the plane but Yu was unable to eject on time.
Air Force spokesman Shen Jinke told Global Times that all PLA Air Force servicemen were deeply regretful and mournful of Yu's unfortunate death.
Yu joined the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force in September 2005 and was serving as a flight squadron leader. She was the first of four women who are certified to fly the J-10, a single-engine multi-role jet which is considered to be the first Chinese domestic fighter to rival Western fighters in its capabilities.
"I'm quite happy with myself, because this solo flight means that I have become a real fighter pilot," Yu in one of her interviews with China's CCTV.
She was also a member of the August 1st aerobatics team that participated in the China Airshow held in Zhuhai, Guangdong province on November 4, 2016. This was her last public performance.
"I think the acrobatics are quite difficult, with high requirements and standards made in all aspects. Our condition is quite satisfactory, but we need more trainings if we want to be better," Yu told CCTV.
Yu, the Chinese 'Hero'
Yu was born in 1986 and belonged from Chongzhou city in southwest China's Sichuan Province. She was one of the few female pilots who could fly domestically made fighter jets. She had appeared in CCTV's Spring Festival Gala in 2010 along with 15 another female pilots.
According to mainland media reports,Yu said she never felt any regrets about becoming a pilot.
"Sometimes I'm envious of people the same age, but that is only a momentary feeling. I have chosen a different way of life, a different occupation, and I have different pursuits [in life] ... I don't feel regret choosing to fly," CNR quoted her as saying.
The report also added that Yu also dreamed of being an astronaut.
CNN reported that Wan Ying, a friend of Yu's, said she was "a very positive, humble and nice person who loved taking care of friends." Yu was also an avid reader.
Yu's death raised several questions about aviation training for female figher pilots and whether they were getting the right training.
She was saluted as a hero on the Chinese social website Weibo. One poster on Weibo wrote: "Yu Xu is our most proud female pilot. Her death is a great loss for our country."
While another wrote: "Yu is the Hua Mulan (legendary woman warrior) of our era, a rare heroine."