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Featured Story
Special> 85th Anniversary of the Founding of the Chinese People's Liberation Army> Beijing Review Exclusive> Featured Story
UPDATED: July 30, 2012 NO. 31 AUGUST 2, 2012
Flying Higher
Army helicopter pilots showcase modernization in Chinese armed forces
By Chen Ran

MADE IN CHINA: The Z-9WZ, a medium-sized military helicopter designed and manufactured by China and the first reconnaissance helicopter fielded by the PLA, is armed with machine guns, cannons, rockets and missiles to attack air and ground targets or to provide support for ground troops (SHI GANG)

MULTI-PURPOSE CHOPPER: The rear of an M-171 helicopter. The M-171 is a medium-sized helicopter introduced from Russia. It can be used for transporting personnel and supplies as well as emergency rescue, disaster relief, parachuting and battlefield rescue (SHI GANG)

SMILING FACE: Captain Li Zhiyuan, 28, is the youngest pilot in the flight performance team of the Army Aviation Fourth Helicopter Regiment of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (SHI GANG)

For more photos please click here

Rearward ascent with vertical reversal is one of the most difficult maneuvers during a helicopter flight performance. It took Captain Li Zhiyuan nearly two years to learn. Li, 28, is the youngest pilot in the flight performance team of the Army Aviation Fourth Helicopter Regiment of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA).

Born in Heze City, east China's Shandong Province, Li was captivated by flight since childhood. After attending a training camp in an aviation base in high school, he made up his mind to become a pilot. In 2003, he was admitted by the PLA Army Aviation College, majoring in aviation and command.

It was not until the fall semester of 2006 that Li flew his very first training helicopter. "It was my dream. I had waited for this moment for quite a long time," Li told Beijing Review. "I was familiar with the aircraft from the textbook, but still felt a bit nervous at the very beginning. The feeling was just like you were afraid of falling down the first time riding a bicycle. I was excited."

Li has served as a co-pilot at the Army Aviation Fourth Helicopter Regiment since graduating in 2007.

The regiment, based in the eastern outskirts of Beijing, was formed in 1988, two years after the Army Aviation Department was set up. It is one of the earliest units directly under the command of the Army Aviation Department of the PLA General Staff Headquarters and also the first armed helicopter unit.

Currently, the regiment has nearly 1,000 personnel. Among others, 86 percent of the officers have college degrees or above. Both the air crew and the ground crew are engaged in highly technical and specialized work, such as piloting, navigation, communication, mechanics, electronics, radio, gunnery and radar. Its fleet includes Z-9WZ armed helicopters, Mi-series transport helicopters and fixed-wing transport aircraft.

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