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Reporter's log: Aerobatic pilots are more than performers

By Meng Zhe | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2019-05-03 09:29
Jing Fei, chief of No.1 brigade of the Bayi aerobatics team. [Photo/provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

"Request to take off."

"Approved."

And with that, three J-10 fighter jets take off instantly.

This was my first chance to see the Chinese August 1st or Bayi aerobatics team, and as first impressions go, the huge sound wave produced by the new domestic developed J-10 fighter jet is a spectacular one.

It is hard not to be impressed by the team, and their impressive role of honor, but I was more interested in getting to know the individual team members, rather than the badge, and to hear their stories and dreams.

The first person in the team I got to know was Jing Fei, chief of No.1 brigade. "You speak very good English," I told him, as it is noticeable how they use Aviation English in daily training, which is not common in the Chinese air force.

"I have read professional aviation English for many years," he laughed. "Now the Bayi aerobatics team's daily training is bilingual but aviation English remains important to us since we have had many international performances since 2013."

Can we do this interview in English then, I joked with him. But one detail I noticed in their dormitory was interesting and shows how they practice aviation English. On the right side of the dormitory door, there is a small white board where every day the pilots write an aviation English sentence, so that as they go in and out of the room, they are always being reminded of the language.

An exhibition shows the history of the Bayi aerobatics team. [Photo/provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

China's Bayi aerobatics team is now a well-regarded part of the international aerobatics industry. In 2013, they made their first appearance in Russia at the Moscow Air Show and two years later they went to the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition in Malaysia.

In 2017, they performed at the Dubai Air Show, before another appearance in Russia one year later, and their most recent international engagement was in Islamabad for Pakistan's national day parade.

Everyone in the team was excited to share memories of when they perform abroad, and to talk about the maneuvers they perform, but to be honest I was not the greatest audience for this. What did strike me, however, was when the captain of the Bayi team said how, on their visit to Pakistan, he noticed the state of readiness of the Pakistan Air Force, and the atmosphere of combat. He said it made him realize he was lucky to be born in China, a peaceful country, where even military personnel are not close to real war.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. Where has our happiness come from in recent years? We may complain about the inequality of healthcare resources. We may complain about our salary. We may complain about air quality – but we have time to complain about these things because we live in a peaceful land. We don't need to worry about wars. We have a peaceful environment to work hard and chase our dreams.

Pilots are preparing for a night flight. [Photo/provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

Actually, I do have one question: why do we need an aerobatics team in the Chinese Air Force at all? The answer comes out on my second night at the base. At eight o'clock, pilots are preparing for a night flight. Obviously, aerobatics performance flights never take place at night, but they are practicing to maintain their skill as a combat force. When preparing for their performance flights, the pilots are easygoing and lighthearted but for night flights, the atmosphere changed a lot. Everybody knows how serious combat flight is. Now they are ready to fight against the enemy and safeguard of our sky.

The Bayi aerobatics team is definitely showing people the combat capabilities of Chinese Air force. They are not only performers – they are also Chinese soldiers safeguarding peace for all the people in the world.

China Daily reporter Meng Zhe. [Photo/provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

 

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