announced that, after three decades of trying, their helicopter pilots have
finally mastered how to land safely on a moving ship at night. This is actually
a rather difficult operation. The accident rate for naval helicopter pilots is
about ten times that of jet fighter pilots, and it takes a lot of training and
experience to handle night operations. China does not have a large naval
helicopter force. There are about a hundred helicopters that can operate off
ships, but there are only about twenty warships that normally operate
helicopters. There are some combat support ships with helicopters as well. In
recent years, China has increased the money for getting their helicopter pilots
in the air more often. Fuel and spare parts are expensive, especially since
many of the helicopters on warships are of foreign manufacture. China has also
developed some flight simulators for helicopters, and these have further
increased the experience levels of their pilots.
The navy did not say how many
of its naval helicopter pilots are qualified for night landings on moving
ships. It could be only a dozen or so aviators.