J-10 flight demonstration, via AP Images

Yu Xu, the first woman to fly China’s J-10 fighter jet and one of only four women trained to fly Chinese-made fighters, was killed after ejecting from her aircraft during a training exercise, according to The Telegraph.

Yu was forced to eject from her aircraft last week, but she struck the wing of another aircraft and was killed. Her co-pilot ejected safely.

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Yu joined the People’s Liberation Army Air Force in 2005 and became one of 16 Chinese women qualified to pilot fighter jets. In 2012 she became the first woman to pilot China’s J-10 fighter jet, which was introduced for operational use in 2003. According to local media, Yu had aspirations to become an astronaut.

Her success in an Air Force and culture dominated by men was a major step in the diversification of the Chinese military.

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From The Telegraph:

Yu was one of two female members of the August 1st team - named for the date of the founding of the PLA - pictured at China’s premier air show in Zhuhai two years ago.

The pair strode to their fighter planes in lock-step with male pilots, all wearing identical green jumpsuits and sunglasses.

At the time the China Daily newspaper quoted Wang Yan’an, deputy editor of Aerospace Knowledge magazine, as saying: “Female pilots have learned to fly cutting-edge fighter jets in the Chinese air force.

“It means the air force has diversified its pilot pool and can recruit more female pilots.”

[...]

The official news agency Xinhua quoted Air Force spokesman Shen Jinke saying all its personnel were “deeply regretful and mournful” at her “unfortunate death”.

The J-10 is a workhorse of the Chinese air force. An estimated 400 of the jets have been built, most for Chinese use, according to defense analysts IHS Janes. It said in December reports had emerged of three crashes in the previous three months.

Yu, who had been given the nickame “Golden Peafowl” by her fans according to China Daily, was 30 years old.