'81192, Please return!' - Chinese people nationwide pay tribute to a heroic pilot
Published: Apr 01, 2024 03:04 PM
People hold flowers at the tomb of Wang Wei martyr in Hangzhou, East China's Zhejiang Province on April 1, 2022. Friday marks the 21st anniversary of the sacrifice of Wang. Photo: cnsphoto

People hold flowers at the tomb of Wang Wei martyr in Hangzhou, East China's Zhejiang Province on April 1, 2022. Photo: cnsphoto

Every year on April 1, the call sign "81192" is remembered by many Chinese. Do you remember the name Wang Wei? Do you remember the number 81192? 

According to a news release by the Southern Theater Command on its WeChat official account on Monday, on April 1, 2001, a US military reconnaissance plane illegally entered China's South China Sea airspace. Chinese military dispatched two aircraft to track and intercept the US plane, but the US plane suddenly veered at a wide angle toward the Chinese planes, and then rammed one of the Chinese planes, causing it to lose control and plunge into the sea, according to Xinhua news report in April 2001.

The pilot Wang Wei parachuted from his stricken plane and was missing.

"81192 Copy. I have been unable to return, please proceed!" were Wang Wei, the pilot's last words. 

Tens of thousands of soldiers and civilians searched for him for 14 days and nights but could not find him, The People's Daily reported on Monday.

23 years have passed, but people have not forgotten him. Every year on this day, Wang's statue is adorned with gifts - models of J-15, J-20, Y-20, the Shandong aircraft carrier... People place aircraft and aircraft carrier models in front of the hero's tomb to pay tribute to his spirit.

The Southern Theater Command reported in news release that to inspire soldiers to inherit the hero's will and cultivate a fighting spirit, on the eve of April 1, or Sunday, a naval aviation unit in the Southern Theater Command held a memorial ceremony at the "Sea-Air Guardian" Wang Wei Hope Primary School. 

With the solemn national anthem played, everyone stood in silence in front of the martyr's statue, paying deep respects to Wang. Soldiers and representatives from the school laid flowers in front of Wang's statue, expressing deep remembrance and respect. They signed a banner pledging to defend the country.

According to the Southern Theater Command, in recent days, a naval aviation unit has continued to carry out flight training across the day and night, targeting the pilot's shortcomings and weaknesses, continued to carry out the training of instructors, and the new generation of pilots' first solo flight and follow-up mission recovery training, paying tribute to heroes with practical actions.

Many netizens on social media mourned the martyr. 

One user wrote, "Hero's spirit lasts forever." Another said, "23 years! We have never forgotten. Martyr Wang Wei, your spirit is forever engraved in the country's sea and sky! Salute." The topic about "81192" continues to gain popularity, accumulating over a billion reads on Sina Weibo.

"To defend the motherland's vast sea and sky with the most advanced fighter jets is my greatest wish." Wang Wei had a firm belief in serving his country since his high school days, according to the People's Daily news report.

After joining the navy, he was deployed to the country's southern gateway. Among his peers, he was the first to fly over a thousand hours in the most advanced domestically produced fighter jet, becoming an "all-weather" first-class pilot capable of flying in four different weather conditions. He had the most combat take-offs and executed the most critical missions among his peers.

In 2024, a new generation of young people followed in Wang's footsteps, joining the military to defend the country.

The People's Daily revealed that Wang's son has become a proud naval officer. In 2022, Wang's nephew Jiang Yufan who was born after 2000 became a flight student through rigorous selection. Jiang hopes to become the fourth pilot in the Wangs family through hard work.

University graduate Zhang Yuan was inspired by Wang's story to join the military. He once wrote a letter placed at Wang's grave, "The Chinese nation has never lacked backbone. In the past, now, and in the future, we will never lack it! Now, it is our turn to take over from you."

23 years later, the hero's long-cherished wish has come true. 

When his comrades were sorting through Wang's belongings, they found a painting he had personally drawn called Long Cherished Wish. In the painting, a pilot is taking off from an aircraft carrier, a scene Wang had always dreamed of. Wang once told his wife that his greatest wish was to fly a fighter jet from an aircraft carrier.

Today, Wang's wish has become a reality. 

According to the People's Daily, on September 25, 2012, the Liaoning aircraft carrier was delivered and commissioned to the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy, ending China's history without an aircraft carrier; on December 17, 2019, the first domestically produced aircraft carrier, the Shandong, was officially commissioned to the PLA Navy at a military port in Sanya, South China's Hainan Province; on June 17, 2022, China's third aircraft carrier, the Fujian, was launched.

Heroes never fade into irrelevance, and we will never forget. "81192, your mission is complete, please return immediately! Please return immediately!"

Global Times