When the Chinese air force conducted a drill named “A Surprise Attack on Hong Kong” earlier this month, a helicopter crash caused 11 deaths, Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights & Democracy reported on Oct. 30.
Soldiers in the Air Assault Brigade of South China Military Region took off from Chongzuo City of Guangxi Province on Oct. 11, launching a “surprise attack” on Xupu County of Hunan Province, located 500 miles away, being used to represent Hong Kong.
At 7:40 p.m., a Z-8G, China’s latest military transport helicopter, crashed into a mountain in Xupu County. All 11 people on board were killed, including 3 military officers and 8 soldiers. The officers were Lieutenant Colonel Wen Weibin, 37, Major Gong Dachuan, 33, and Lieutenant Luo Wei, 24—all three had participated in the military parade in Beijing on Oct. 1 to mark the 70th anniversary of the Communist Party’s takeover of China.
Chinese state media reported the officers’ deaths 15 days later, on Oct. 26, and specifically mentioned that they had participated in the formation of the number “70” during the anniversary parade and praising them as martyrs. However, the media did not identify the eight soldiers who lost their lives in the crash, and omitted details about the purpose of the military drill and the model of the helicopter.
The day after the fatal crash, the same model of helicopter was the center of public attention when it made its debut at the Fifth China Helicopter Exposition in Tianjin. The Z-8G, the latest model of large transport helicopters, was presented as a major breakthrough in military technology development. The Chinese military claims it is an all-weather and all-terrain aircraft, capable of lifting 30 fully armed soldiers, and flying 620 miles in one trip.
However, a military expert told South China Morning Post on Oct. 28 that problems with engines and flight control systems were oftentimes the key reasons behind fatal aircraft accidents.
For instance, flight control system malfunction of J-15 fighter jets caused two crashes in April 2016, resulting in one death and one serious injury.
Col. Zha Xianwei, a top grade pilot and instructor, died on April 26 of this year when the CAIC Z-10 attack helicopter he was flying experienced mechanical failure. Zha would have been the leading pilot for the National Day military parade helicopter team if he were still alive.
In the past 60 years, more than 2,000 Chinese air force pilots have died in aviation accidents.