One such commander of Air India, Swati Raval. A resident of Delhi, Captain Swati Raval led the crew of 20 that brought back 263 Indians from Italy, on 22nd March. The crew was led by Captain Raja Chauhan from Mumbai during the journey to Italy. Air India’s Boeing 777, Rome to Delhi brought 263 individuals back home during the Coronavirus outrage in Italy that wreaked havoc and took 34,000 lives there.

On remembering the day, she said to Vogue ‘“I still get goosebumps when I think about that flight. As a mother myself, I was extremely overwhelmed by the relief and joy I saw on those
students’ faces when they boarded the aircraft to fly home to their families.”

The biggest challenge for them was the fact that there was a lack of clarity regarding preventive measures needed against the virus. The 263 Indians were mostly students who were stuck in Italy and could not return due to the sudden lockdown that sealed borders in almost all countries.

These students/passengers were sanitized and provided with meals, water, and juice and
advised to use masks and restrict movement throughout the journey. The flight attendants, in hazmat suits, were thanked and praised for their bravery.

The passengers rescued were overwhelmed with happiness and emotions and cheered the Captains who practically saved their lives.

This was the second rescue mission, first being the Air India flight to Wuhan. 40-year-old Captain Swati Raval is the mother of two, 5-year-old Chanaksha, and 18 months old Nandani, but on 22nd March she was the mother to all those students who were rescued from Italy while it was the hotspot of the disease. She was confined to 14 days of quarantine after her duty which was extremely tough for her considering her kids did not understand the implication of the quarantine it the gravity of the disease.

Swati Raval is originally from Gujarat and always dreamed of being captain of a fighter plane. With the percentage of women in the aviation industry standing at 12.4%, it was not an easy journey for her to rise from the first officer at Air India in 2004 to commander in 2013 and eventually
joining the Boeing 777 team. Her wish to serve the country was fulfilled a little.

SSwati Raval said, “Unfortunately, it wasn’t easy in those days for women to get such positions in the military. I had to settle with becoming a commercial pilot instead, which is why I am so glad I got to serve my nation, even if in a small way,”

Her biggest inspiration is her father and biggest supporter, her husband. Her heartfelt dedication towards her job is remarkable and she clarified there is no chance she or any other aviation service member would not attend to their call of duty. She also explained the disapproval of the society that the frontline warriors are facing during this pandemic.

Although it arises from fear of the disease, it negatively affects the people who are risking their lives to do the job that needs to do, whether it be policemen, doctors, or any other servicemen.

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