The 13th batch of the PLA Air Force’s female pilot cadets visits the honor gallery. (Photo by Wang Zheng)
By Chan Jibin and Guo Hongbin
BEIJING, Nov. 5 — The recruitment of female pilot cadets for the Chinese PLA Air Force (PLAAF) has continued for 70 years since the 1st batch enlisted in 1951 till the 13th batch this year.
Over the past 70 years, there have been a total of nearly 700 female pilot cadets recruited by the PLAAF, among whom more than 360 have graduated successfully, making China one of the countries with the most female pilots across the world.
Most of the female pilot cadets have grown into flight commanders or flight instructors with some being ace or first-class pilots, and even female astronauts, for example, Liu Yang and Wang Yaping. Hundreds of them have been awarded first-class or second-class merit citations, and dozens received national or military commendations.
“A history of the recruitment and cultivation of female pilots reflects the glorious course of the PLAAF’s strategic transformation in a leapfrog development.” According to experts on the history of the PLAAF, in the past 70 years, the PLA Air Force’s route to select and train female pilot cadets has gone faster and wider, from the initial recruitment of outstanding female soldiers from the PLA Navy, Army, and Air Force for short-term training, to college education by selecting senior high school graduates; from the training of dual-degree cadets, to the co-training of “dual-enrollment” students with Peking University and Tsinghua University; and from the training of transport aircraft and bomber pilots, to the training of fighter jet pilots, and then to send female astronauts for the aerospace industry. These female graduates have made outstanding contributions to China’s national defense construction and aerospace industry.
“Firsts” created by the PLAAF female pilots:
In November 1951, the 1st batch of female pilot cadets graduated, marking the birth of the PLAAF’s female pilots.
In August 1963, three female pilots, Chen Zhiying, Pan Junru, and Han Shuqin, turned to be helicopter pilots, representing the 1st batch of female helicopter pilots of the PLAAF.
In June 1973, two female pilots, Wang Yun and Han Shuqin, successfully turned to operate Trident transport aircraft, marking the 1st batch of China’s female pilots in flying jet aircraft.
In June and October 1984, the 5th batch of female pilot cadets graduated, becoming China’s 1st batch of female pilots with a college diploma.
In 1984, Zhang Yumei, one of the 3rd batch of female pilots, joined the PLAAF’s flight test team, becoming the first female test pilot in the history of the PLA Air Force.
In August 1993, the 6th batch of female pilot cadets graduated, making them the 1st batch of female pilots with both a university diploma and a bachelor’s degree in Military Science in the Chinese military.
In April 2009, 16 female pilot cadets, the 8th batch in the PLAAF history, graduated, making them the 1st batch of female fighter pilots in Chinese military history.
On January 15, 2015, the 1st batch of female fighter pilots with double bachelor degrees completed the training courses and got commissioned in the military.
In September 2019, seven female pilots, the 12th batch in the PLAAF history, were admitted by Peking University and Tsinghua University as “dual-enrollment” students, the first ever in history.