Former U2 pilot Hua Hsi-chun (華錫鈞) donated the majority of his life’s savings to National Cheng Kung University yesterday to help cultivate Taiwanese talent in aeronautical engineering.
Hua, who is based in the US, was quoted by former Aerospace Industrial Development Corp chairman Shung Yeou-kuang (邢有光), who received Hua’s donation, as saying that he decided to donate NT$15 million (US$501,680) to the university because aeronautical studies are vital to the nation, but they do not enjoy the attention they deserve.
Besides funding aeronautical studies, the donation will also be used to set up a think tank in the field, said Hwung Hwung-hweng (黃煌煇), president of the university, where Hua once taught.
Hua, 87, flew the high-altitude spyplanes over China between 1959 and 1963 as a pilot with the Air Force’s 35th Squadron, known as the “Black Cat Squadron,” which assisted the US in reconnaissance missions over China during the Cold War.
The former airman, who holds a master’s degree and a doctorate in aeronautical engineering from Purdue University in the US, served as vice president of the military-run Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology and as a strategy advisor to former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝).
Known as the father of Taiwanese aviation, Hua also played a major role in the development of the nation’s military planes, overseeing the design of the TCH-1 turboprop trainer, the more advanced AT-3 transonic jet-trainer, the XC-2 transport aircraft and the locally built Indigenous Defense Fighter.
Hua has been awarded several military decorations in recognition of his significant contributions to national security, as well as the US’ Distinguished Flying Cross.
Shung said that Hua, despite being based in the US, is still greatly interested in aeronautical research and development in Taiwan.
Shung described Hua as a great role model for members of the air force because he boasts actual combat experience and a profound knowledge of aeronautics.