Although no Chinese women will be arranged to board the Shenzhou VII spacecraft scheduled to blast off late in the year, they will be offered more chances of piloting aircraft in the future.
Starting this year, the Air Force of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) will recruit female pilots from senior high school graduates every three years, instead of every seven or eight years in the past five decades.
"It means that more Chinese women will have the chances of becoming pilots," Maj. Gen. Yue Xicui of the Air Force told Xinhua on Friday.
Actually, the Air Force has begun this year's of selection of female pilot cadets from different parts of the country, said Yue, who is attending the annual session of China's top political advisory body as a member of the 11th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).
It is the ninth batch of female pilot cadets to be recruited by the Air Force since 1951, she said.
Unlike their predecessors who were mostly assigned to cargo aircraft piloting, navigation or telecom services, the recruits will be trained for more demanding duties, such as air refueling, airborne early warning and electronic reconnaissance, according to Yue.
"They will also become a reserve force for the Chinese women taikonauts," she said.
The 60-year-old Yue, a former senior officer of the Chinese PLA Guangzhou Military Area Command, was one of the most experienced female pilots in the country.
She was recruited by the Air Force in 1965 to be trained as one of the third batch of female pilots. In 2003, Yue became the first Chinese woman pilot who was granted the rank of major general.
The Chinese Air Force has recruited and trained more than 300 female pilots, boasting one of the largest contingent of female pilots in the world.
On March 8, 1952, the International Women's Day, China's first batch of female pilots conducted a flyover of Tian'anmen Square in downtown Beijing that was viewed by more than 7,000 people, including foreign envoys and media.
The eighth group of 35 female pilot cadets was recruited in 2005 and most of them have begun piloting aircraft from Feb. 20 this year, Yue said.
The Shenzhou VII spacecraft will be launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the northwestern province of Gansu in the second half of the year and the taikonauts will leave their spacecraft for the first time.
There would be three taikonauts aboard the Shenzhou VII, without the presence of a female, Qi Faren, also a political advisor and former chief designer of China's Shenzhou spaceships, revealed on Tuesday.
China, which successfully conducted its first manned space flight in October 2003, plans to send a female taikonaut into space in three to five years.
(Xinhua News Agency March 7, 2008)