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J-20 in limelight, but pilots deserve credit

By Zhao Lei | China Daily | Updated: 2016-11-14 07:42

About two weeks ago, I was in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, covering the 11th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition, commonly known as the Zhuhai Air Show.

On Nov 1, the first day of the exhibition, the star was the J-20 fifth-generation stealth combat aircraft, and two J-20s performed a short routine above thousands of spectators to make their public debut.

I'm convinced that every military fan, including myself, was so eager to see what the J-20 would be like that we hoped the aerobatic display by the People's Liberation Army August 1st Air Demonstration Team, which was to be held beforehand, would be short. I also believe that fewer spectators paid as much attention to the team as they did at previous Zhuhai shows because of the J-20.

Now, looking at the black-and-white pictures of Yu Xu, a young flyer with the August 1st team who died in the line of duty, I think I should have watched more carefully her last "sky dance" in Zhuhai.

I presume she'd understand, as all of us, including possibly Yu, were so looking forward to seeing China's fifth-generation stealth fighter jet and so happy that our nation finally has a strong air force that can prevent a repeat of the humiliating period that China endured several decades ago.

I read in media reports that Yu had wished that someday she could fly a J-20. This makes me feel deeply sorry for her, but I also think she was lucky because she actually saw the J-20. Many Chinese air force pilots probably dreamed about such an advanced plane but did not live to see it. Yu once told reporters that she sometimes envied others of her age who were not PLA personnel because "when we're training hard in the air force, they're enjoying a colorful life".

Yet she didn't regret choosing to be a PLA pilot. "There are no things in my youth so far that I should feel sorry for," she said. "No matter how tough the training has been, I've never feared and retreated."

I owe a thank you to Yu, who will be forever young, and to her air force comrades because I know China and its people are safe thanks to them flying high in the sky to safeguard this land.

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