Wang Wei [file photo]
Video footage capturing a Chinese hero pilot on flight duty was aired Monday in a program of China Central Television.

The pilot was Wang Wei, who went missing 12 years ago after his fighter jet collided with a U.S. spy aircraft over the South China Sea.
The video was shot at a very close range by a U.S. pilot, not Wang’s wingman.
On April 1, 2001, a U.S. EP-3 military surveillance plane was found flying close to China’s airspace southeast of Hainan Island. Wang and his wingman were dispatched to trail and monitor it.
After flying in the same direction with the U.S. plane for a while, Wang’s jet took a hit and he ejected from the aircraft. The U.S. plane later landed at a Chinese airport without government permission.
The Chinese navy as well as civilians made maximum efforts to locate Wang, but the search proved to be in vain.
Zhao Yu was Wang’s wingman when the latter’s plane crashed. According to Zhao, when the tragedy took place, Wang’s plane was some 400 meters away from the U.S. one.

The two planes had been parallel-flying for quite a while, which was common in those days as the U.S. frequently conducted surveillance flights in China’s airspace and Chinese pilots had to follow and intercept them to safeguard national sovereignty.
Zhao recalled that around 9:07 a.m., the U.S. plane violated aviation rules by suddenly veering at a wide angle towards Wang’s plane. He saw Wang’s jet was hit at the top by the left wing of the U.S. plane and the vertical stabilizer of Wang’s jet was smashed by the propeller of the U.S. plane.
Wang managed to eject from the aircraft before it crashed into sea, but he was never spotted again despite almost 100,000 soldiers and fishermen searching for him for 14 days and nights straight.
Wang was born in 1968 in eastern China’s Zhejiang Province. He had displayed a strong interest in planes since childhood. In 1986, he attended military school and became a pilot in the Chinese navy four years later. One day before the collision, Wang had told his wife on the phone that he was on duty and couldn’t go home. Those proved to be his last-ever words to her.
China’s military headquarters stated Wang died a heroic death. He was later awarded the posthumous title of "guardian of territorial airspace and waters."
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