Home / Major earthquake slams SW China Tools: Save | Print | E-mail | Most Read | Comment
Earthquake Heroes: People's 'lucky birds'
Adjust font size:

Since the May 12th earthquake, an army aviation regiment from the Chengdu Regional Military Command has topped several lists: it was first to dispatch helicopters to reconnaissance at the disaster site; it was the first to deliver food and medicine to quake victims; it was the first to transport injured victims from quake-affected areas...the list goes on and on.

At 2:28 PM on May 12, the regiment was napping in preparation for special night flight training when a strong shock woke them all up.

At 2:33 PM, Political Commissioner Zhang Xiaofeng ordered the regiment to stop normal flight training and launch an emergency response plan.

In the meantime, headed by Captain Liang Jin, hundreds of soldiers ran to the airport. Despite constant aftershocks, these soldiers pushed all the helicopters parked in the garage out on the tarmac with their bare hands. They performed a lightning fast check-up on the helicopters, quickly finishing all pre-flight requirements.

At 4:28 PM, piloted by deputy regimental commanders Li Xiang and Jiang Guangwei, two helicopters took off and flew directly to Wenchuan, the epicenter.

The helicopters searched along their flight course. Quake-ravaged houses came into view as they approached Dujiangyan. City squares and streets were jammed with evacuated citizens.

The copters continued to fly along the river. But soon thick fog blocked their view of the river and they began to lose visibility. Both the crew and the commanders back in Chengdu grew more and more anxious.

The flight course was adjusted under orders from the commander and the copters quickly climbed up nearly 2,000 meters. But despite this altitude they were still swallowed up by thick clouds.

Wenchuan County sits at the bottom of a large valley. The terrain is so convoluted and treacherous that even aviation experts must beware because the slightest navigational mistake could cause a helicopter to crash. Flying blindly for more than 10 km with almost zero visibility, the copters regretfully returned to the base.

On May 13 relief materials, including food and communication tools, arrived at Fenghuangshan Airport and were quickly loaded. Then clouds started to accumulate and the sky turned dark. Rain was on its way!

All the soldiers knew that 24 hours after an earthquake is the most critical and effective window of time to conduct rescue operations. Without any hesitation the control tower gave the go ahead and the a dozen relief helicopters took off and flew towards the worst hit areas of Beichuan, Qingchuan and Mianzhu.

Captain Liu Lihua's helicopter flew across mountains and through valleys, climbing over one peak after another. When they finally approached their targeted destination of Jinhua town in Mianzhu, Liu found that all the available flat areas had been covered with tents, leaving no space for airdrops or airborne operations.

Three minutes later, the crew resolutely decided to perform an airborne operation in an open farmland. The copters landed smoothly, with one third of the tires sinking into the ground.

Mechanists Tong Wei and Sun Honggao carefully pushed all the goods off the cabin. More than 200 pieces of relief goods were unloaded within five minutes.

As of 2 PM on May 13, 24 hours after the devastating earthquake, this regiment had flown 27 helicopter flights and airlifted a total of 12.7 tons of food, largely fulfilling the need for food in quake-ravaged areas.

Soon, Wenchuan County reported another emergency: thousands of injured people needed to be transferred. Regiment Commander Yu Zhirong, who had already flown six flights, said: "I'm the most familiar with the landscape there, I'll go!"

Refusing to be dissuaded, Yu, led three Blackhawk helicopters to Yingxiu County. One and a half hours later, 18 severely injured people were transported to Chengdu.

On May 15, 16 and 18, the regiment dispatched eight helicopters to Wolong, Mao County and Qipan Mountains in Wenchuan and successfully evacuated 68 foreign tourists and 14 Taiwanese tourists.

As of May 27, the regiment had dispatched 31 helicopters and flown 1,335 flights. They delivered 468.1 tons of relief materials, transported 1,070 quake victims and carried 1,912 persons of medical staff, technology staff and relief experts to disaster areas. People in quake-affected areas have dubbed them the "People's Lucky Bird".

(China.org.cn by Yan Pei, June 6, 2008)

Tools: Save | Print | E-mail | Most Read
Pet Name
China Archives
Related >>
- PLA soldiers risk lives to reach village in Dujiangyan
- May 18: PLA and PAPF Efforts in Earthquake relief
Most Viewed >>
- Why does the Dalai Lama feel helpless?
- Exclusive photos of the devastation at Hanwang town
- Ethylene plant blasted
- Demolition task carried out at Shibangou quake lake
- Moment quake struck captured in wedding photos