The air force yesterday held an event at Chihhang Air Base in Taitung County featuring the nation’s first female fighter pilots — Chiang Ching-hua (蔣青樺), Chiang Hui-yu (蔣惠宇) and Fan Yi-lin (范宜鈴).
Between the three captains, female aviators now pilot all three types of the nation’s frontline fighter jets, the AIDC F-CK-1, the Dassault Mirage 2000 and the Lockheed Martin F-16, Air Force Command said.
The three women are graduates of the Air Force Academy’s class of 2014 and attended flight school together at Chihhang, where they received instruction on T-34 and AIDC AT-3 training aircraft, it said.
Photo: Tu Chu-min, Taipei Times
Fan, Chiang Ching-hua and Chiang Hui-yu have been assigned to the 1st, 2nd and 4th Tactical Fighter Wings respectively, it added.
The women flew their aircraft from their units’ assigned posts to Chihhang for the event.
The three will help to break the stereotype that women are unsuited for service as fighter pilots, the command said, adding that flight instructors concluded from their training that gender has no bearing on fighter pilot skills.
Chiang Ching-hua, who pilots the Mirage 2000 and hails from a military family, said that she wanted to be a fighter pilot since attending an air force open base event as a child and seeing her first Mirage.
Entranced by the warplane’s graceful lines and aerobatics display, she said that she enrolled at the academy as soon as she could.
Fighter pilot training was grueling, but she overcame the hardships thanks to the camaraderie of her fellow trainees, she said, adding that when she first climbed into a cockpit, the intricacies of flying pushed all other thoughts out of her mind.
“I did not even remember that I had dreamed of that moment, but then the airplane took off and the excitement was indescribable,” Chiang Ching-hua said.
She thanked her parents for their support, despite considerable nervousness, saying that her mother came from a military community and had grown up seeing officers delivering “bad news” to families.
“Nowadays, whenever my mother sees a fighter jet, she calls to ask: ‘Was that you?’ to which I reply: ‘Mom, not every fighter jet is flown by your daughter,’” Chiang Ching-hua said.
Fan, who flies the F-CK-1, said: “A lot of people ask me if there is any difference between male and female pilots, or if flying is hard on my body. The answer is always no.”
“G-force and the mission do not sexually discriminate, nor do the air force’s standards,” she added.
Chiang Hui-yu, who pilots the F-16, said: “Where there is will and perseverance, there is nothing you cannot do.”
She said she is always honing her skills as a pilot to challenge herself and to protect her nation.
In related news, the Ministry of National Defense’s remark on Saturday that Major Yang Yun-hsuan (楊韻璇) is the first female AH-64 Apache pilot in Asia appears to be incorrect, as Singapore Army Captain Joyce Xie was identified as a pilot of the attack helicopter in a 2012 report by the Singaporean Ministry of Defence.
Taiwan’s military has pushed to open more occupational specialties to women, who comprised 13.6 percent of the nation’s volunteer armed forces last year.
Women are able to serve as infantry, artillery gunners, military police, aviators and missile operators, as well as most positions in the navy.
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