China's air force is to recruit 30 female pilot cadets this
year. They will become part of a reserve force of women astronauts,
according to an officer in charge of pilot recruitment.
Senior Colonel Sui Guosheng, head of the Pilots Recruitment
Bureau of the Air Force of People's Liberation Army (PLA), said the
recruitment, which kicked off in 16 provincial areas across the
country on Tuesday, was expected to end in July.
The candidates are high-school graduates between 16 and 19.
"They will become a reserve force for the Chinese women
taikonauts for future space missions," Sui said.
Unlike their predecessors who were mostly assigned to cargo
aircraft piloting, navigation or telecom services, the recruits
will be trained for more demanding duties, such as air refueling,
airborne early warning and electronic reconnaissance, according to
China, which successfully conducted its first manned space flight in October 2003,
plans to send a female taikonaut into space in three to five
Sui revealed they would be the first group of female pilot
cadets to be awarded with double BA degrees upon their
Once selected, the students will first spend four years in the
Aeronautics University of the Chinese Air Force and be awarded a
bachelor's degree in engineering. Following another year of
advanced flight training, they will be granted a bachelor's degree
in military science.
According to Sui, this was the ninth batch of female pilots to
be recruited by the PLA air force since 1951.
The previous group of 35 female pilot cadets was recruited in
In all, 29 have ended basic training in the Aeronautics
University of the Chinese Air Force and joined a pilot school of
the air force earlier this year where they will begin flight
training. They are expected to complete their training by 2009.
Six female students could not continue their studies because of
unfavorable physical conditions or poor academic scores, Sui
The air force decided to recruit female cadets every three
years, rather than every seven or eight years as previous,
according to Sui.
The Chinese air force, which has recruited and trained more than
300 female pilots since 1949, boasts one of the largest contingent
of female pilots in the world.
In early 1951, the air force's pilot school recruited the first
group of female candidates. In November that year, they finished
their classes and joined the army.
On March 8, 1952, the International Women's Day, China's first
batch of female pilots conducted a flyover of Tian'anmen Square in
downtown Beijing that was viewed by more than 7,000 people,
including foreign envoys and media.
In 2003, Yue Xicui became the first major general among the
country's female pilots. She has recorded more than 6,000 hours of
flight time without an accident over 36 years.
(Xinhua News Agency February 20, 2008)