By Hu Chengyuan and Lin Fan
The list of deputies to the upcoming National People's Congress (NPC) of the People's Republic of China was announced recently. Xu Fengcan, a female Z-20 helicopter pilot assigned to an air assault brigade under the PLA 75th Group Army, was elected as a deputy of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) and the People’s Armed Police (PAP) Force delegation to the NPC for the first time.
Born in October 1999, Xu Fengcan is one of the first-batch female pilots independently trained and cultivated by the PLA Army. Xu Fengcan and her comrades-in-arms have experienced multiple tests on the way to growing into real pilots of the PLA Army’s aviation force.
In 2017, Xu, together with other 9 female high school graduates, was enrolled into the PLA Army Aviation Academy after beating over 120,000 applicants around the country. Then, in 2021, the 10 girls completed all the courses and passed the qualification exam, turning themselves into the first 10 female pilot trainees in PLA Army. In order to pass the qualification exam, they must meet all the requirements, not only on theoretical knowledge, but also on the basic military qualifications, physical fitness, flying skills, etc.
After graduation with excellent performance, Xu Fengcan was selected as one of the first female pilots of the whole military to fly the Z-20, a domestically manufactured new tactical utility helicopter.
In November 2022, three main battle helicopters of the PLA Army’s air assault force were dynamically displayed for the first time during the 14th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition, China's largest air show. Xu Fengcan, participating in the event as a commentator, explained to the visitors the Z-20’s excellent performance. At the air show, Xu had not forgotten to encourage the aspiring youths. “Join in the army and serve the country,” said she.
Not long ago, the air assault brigade under the PLA 75th Group Army launched training drills with various types of attack helicopters involved. The training courses included instrument navigation, valley flight, and handling of simulated special case during flight. Xu Fengcan participated in multiple courses onboard a Z-20. During the simulated single-engine fault handling, Xu Fengcan quickly adjusted the chopper's posture according to the handling processes, lowered the flight speed, accurately controlled the altitude, and succeeded in landing under the guidance of the captain instructor. All these were done in a calm and composed manner.
On the way to becoming a female gunship pilot, she has been challenged with many tests. There were times when she was overwhelmed by heavy courses, and certain moments when the idea of giving up occurred. "Just hold on a little longer, and it will be fine. All the hardships to overcome and efforts made will pave the way to become a female pilot," Xu Fengcan always told herself.