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THE maiden flight of the C919, China’s first domestically developed narrow-body aircraft, last May involved one “maiden” in the sky — test flight engineer Le Yafei.

While most of her colleagues stood cheering along the No. 4 runway at Pudong International Airport, waiting for the successful landing, Le was closely observing the flight from a jet flying alongside.

“I heard the success of the flight through my earphones, but I had to keep calm in order to complete my mission,” she said.

Le is one of the only two women among 41 flight test engineers working at the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC), developer of the C919. Their responsibilities include planning and preparing flight tests, overseeing aircraft buildup and ensuring that sensors and recording systems are installed to capture data parameters.

Sometimes, the engineers travel on test flights to guide pilots in carrying out various experiments and to collect and analyze data in the cabin.

Thoughtful and careful

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During the C919 maiden flight mission, she served as deputy director of the technical support team.

“I believe female test flight engineers have capabilities equal to those of their male counterparts, and sometimes they even have advantages, such as being more thoughtful and careful,” Le Yafei said.

In previous work in Dongying in the eastern province of Shandong, Le compressed the number of test flights by half with meticulous planning, saving millions of yuan in costs.

Le dreamed of flying since she was a child. She liked flying kites and watching through windows whenever people boarded an aircraft. After viewing the US movie “Top Gun,” she resolved to become a pilot.

Her dream has partially come true. The 31-year-old engineer has so far flown more than 300 hours in test flights for the ARJ21, the country’s first domestically developed regional jet.

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