China's first female J-10 fighter pilot Yu Xu met with an untimely death in a crash during a training exercise on 12 November in the northern province of Hebei. A member of the country's air force aerobatics team, the pioneer pilot was killed when her jet was brought down after hitting the wing of another plane.
Xu's male co-pilot managed to eject from the vessel before the planes could collide and survived the accident with minor injuries, the China Daily newspaper reported.
The engine and the flight data recorder (black box) of the jet have been recovered and handed over to the authorities for further investigation.
30-year-old Xu joined the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force in 2005 after graduating from the PLA Air Force Aviation University and was one of 16 of the first female pilots qualified to fly a fighter jet. In July 2012, she became the first of four women who were certified to fly the J-10, a single-engine multi-role jet. It is the first Chinese domestic fighter to rival Western fighters in its capabilities.
Yu was considered a role model for young women looking to join the army and the air force in particular. Her fans nicknamed her Golden Peafowl after a video of her performing a peafowl dance at a school party was made public.
"China is a pioneer in training female aerobatic pilots. When the program started, there was no foreign experience to borrow from or statistics to rely on from other countries. From this perspective, Yu Xu and other female aerobatic pilots have taken greater risks, which deserve more of our respect," Chinese aviation expert, Wang Ya'nan told Global Times.
The state run news agency Xinhua quoted Air Force spokesman Shen Jinke as saying that its personnel were "deeply regretful and mournful" at her "unfortunate death".