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The August 1st Air Demonstration Team, China's first and best-known aerobatic flight display, is willing to perform in foreign countries and conduct more exchanges and communication with counterparts overseas, according to leaders and pilots.
"We have received several invitations from foreign counterparts and have previously made plans for overseas performances," Yan Feng, a senior colonel of the People's Liberation Army air force, said at the Ninth China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition, also known as the Zhuhai Airshow, in Guangdong province.
"There were times when we were very close to going abroad, to countries including Singapore and Russia, but in the end, we could not make it," he said.
Yan is commander of a fighter jet division in charge of the team, which was founded in 1962 and is named after the date of the founding of the PLA. The elite unit has performed more than 650 events in front of Chinese spectators and delegations from 147 countries and regions.
"There are various reasons we have not performed in other countries," he said. "We can't decide ourselves whether to accept the invitations or not. That is up to higher authorities and involves communication and coordination in advance."
Overseas performances involve complex logistics, he said
"Our plane, the J-10, is a single-engine jet, so we also have safety concerns for long-range flights," he said.
Yan is taking part in the team's demonstrations in Zhuhai, which began on Tuesday and end on Sunday.
Major Jiang Jinquan, who joined the team in 2009, said he is eager to try aircraft flown by his foreign counterparts.
"Although we have not piloted foreign fighter jets, most of the team members have taken part in overseas air shows and shared experiences with foreign pilots," he said, adding that he visited Britain to attend events.
"Many foreign counterparts have told us that they are interested in flying the J-10. I hope we can enjoy more opportunities to communicate with each other."
Pilots said they are proud of the J-10, an advanced third-generation fighter jet that is developed and manufactured by the Aviation Industry Corp of China.
"Piloting the J-7, which we used prior to the J-10, is like driving a tractor, while flying the J-10 is as comfortable as driving a Mercedes-Benz limo," Yan said.
Talking about his counterparts from the Russian Knights aerobatic demonstration team, Yan said they have a longer history and richer experience of flying third-generation jet fighters, and their aircraft ― the Sukhoi Su-27 twin-engine fighter ― is more advanced than the J-10.
"However, I noticed that in their demonstration, staged yesterday, they sometimes repeated the same maneuvers, and our maneuvers were more fluent and switched at a faster pace, which requires pilots to have outstanding capabilities," Yan said.
"We also value opinions and suggestions from Chinese spectators, military fans and Internet users," he said. "For example, some netizens told us they thought the painting on our previous helmets was bad, so we repainted the helmets. We have also adjusted the pattern of our uniform based on netizens' advice."
In addition to the August 1st team, China has two other aerobatic demonstration teams, Sky Wing and Red Falcon. Both were formed in 2011 and belong to two flight-training institutes of the PLA air force.