Eagle hunting from the tree top

Zhang Tao

Yuan Luogeng is the oldest among the squadron. (Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn)

Dream never fades

Yuan Luogeng, 50, an ace test pilot, is the oldest among the squadron. Shi Xiaofeng, 30, is the youngest second grade test pilot in the squadron, and both of them have a same dream. Yuan has flown for 30 years and clocked 5,600 hours of safe flight. The old hand has never missed out assignments citing personal reasons, and has been awarded the "golden finger" of the squadron. A test pilot is eligible to retire at the age of 47, but Yuan has continued his flight dream for another three years. Many pilots choose to join civil aviation after retirement and earn salary ranging from 600,000 yuan to more than one million yuan a year; however, Yuan never wavered on his faith. "The challenging tasks in the squadron have improved my flying skills, and I would like to stay here for another five or 10 years as long as the squadron needs me," Yuan told chinadaily.com.cn.

Born in Chifeng, North China's Inner Mongolia, Shi Xiaofeng dreamt from childhood to become a pilot and soar in the sky like an eagle. Shi took his first test flight in 2009 and graduated in 2010. After a series of training sessions, Shi finally became a qualified test pilot. As a post-85s, Shi once found military life simple and boring. "But I do not feel that way anymore," Shi told chinadaily.com.cn. "We sometimes carry out flight tasks in other provinces, which has granted me opportunities of seeing our country, and that is enough for me," added Shi.

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