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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistan's air force has suffered its first-ever female pilot fatality after a fighter jet crashed during a training mission Tuesday, officials said.
Flying Officer Mariam Mukhtiar was killed after the Chinese-built F7-PG aircraft she was flying suffered a "serious in-flight emergency," according to a statement from the Pakistan Air Force.
Both 23-year-old Mukhtiar and Squadron Leader Saqib Abbasi — who was also aboard the aircraft but survived — were praised by the air force for their "professionalism and courage" after they "tried to save the ill-fated aircraft until the very last minute."
According to the statement, the pair remained in the stricken plane and did not eject until it was clear the civilian population on the ground was not in danger.
The aircraft crashed near the town of Kundian, in Pakistan's Punjab province. Abbasi suffered minor injuries.
F7-PG aircraft have been involved in several deadly crashes to affect Pakistan's military in recent years.
The aircraft was manufactured by China's state-run Chengdu Aircraft Corporation and first came into service in the 1960s. Production of the F7-PG ceased in 2013, however they are still used by Pakistan as interceptors in the event of an aerial conflict with India.
The late Mukhtiar spoke with NBC News' Wajahat S. Khan in 2013, saying that flying in the Pakistani air force was "really tough, especially being a woman."
"But if you are willing enough and want to do something extraordinary, then this is very adventurous for me, very thrilling for me, and I am very motivated that I do something that hasn't been done before," she said. "I am very motivated that I do something that hasn't been done before."