Parachute test jumping is a high-risk profession with only 20 or 30 people in the country. Li Jun, who used to be an airborne trooper, has been a parachute test jumper for 26 years and test-jumped more than 3,000 times. His team has created several parachuting and air-drop records, including the successful jump from the Y-20 transport aircraft.
Parachute test jumpers are tasked to verify the limitation of parachutes. If soldiers need to jump from a high altitude, the test jumpers need to go to plateaus at an altitude of 6,000m-7,000m before them; if soldiers need to ensure airdrop and parachuting in alpine regions, test jumpers need to jump at -50℃ in advance; if they need to verify whether the parachute can open successfully at a low altitude, they are faced with a more extreme test of life and death.
Li Jun was recruited as a test jumper in 1994. At first, he thought it was a decent job and he was competent enough and enjoyed the challenge. However, the constant dangers and injuries have more than once made him fear and want to quit.
“The most serious situation is to get injured in air. It’s terrifying as nobody can help you up there.” Test jumping has given Li Jun fractured ligaments in both legs. The worst situation was that when he left the plane, his thigh and calf, which were originally connected by ligament, loosened from each other, which was excruciating.
But after countless times of jumping, Li gradually found his answer and the peace of mind. “It has to be done. The more I jump, the more problems I discover, the safer the soldiers will be.” He has made it his duty to protect the life safety of the soldiers.
In the past 26 years, Li Jun has had more than 3,000 successful test jumps. He led his team to break the bottleneck on airdrop and parachuting on plateaus and set the standard for such exercises in extreme cold conditions.
He also created the record of the highest weight of parachuting and airdrop in China, and successfully jumped from the Y-20, contributing to the leapfrog progress in the PLA Air Force’s strategic projection capability.
In the past 26 years, Li Jun has witnessed the rapid development of China’s parachuting and airdrop equipment, from single parachute to double parachute, from circular parachute to airfoil parachute, and to the world-leading intelligent parachute today. He has also witnessed a growing number of young people joining this niche exercise.
Li Jun expressed that he would have still chosen to become a test jumper if he had been brought back to 1994. “It is my dream and my honor to watch the beautiful rivers and mountains of our country from up high. The more parachutes we test, the more advanced their performance.”
At the 14th Aerospace Laureate Awards 2020 Awarding Ceremony held in Beijing on November 18, Li Jun and his test-jumping team were conferred the Dauntless Hero Award. Initiated in 2005, the annual Aerospace Laureate Award became a biennial event since 2018, aimed to commend units and individuals that have made outstanding contributions to scientific and technological progress and national defense development in the field of aviation and aerospace.