Flight lieutenant Swati Rathore (30) is scripting history as she becomes the first woman in the history of the Indian Air force (IAF) to lead the flypast in the Republic Day Parade this year.
Rathore will be flying the Mi-17 V5 with Indian Air Force flag in a formation of four choppers. She will be the only woman pilot in the formation.
However, this isn’t the first time that Rathore will be participating in the flypast; she has already done it on Air Force Day on October 8 last year. Her father, Dr Bhavani Singh Rathore, who is a Deputy Director in the state's Agriculture Department, has told the media, “Swati had always wanted to join the IAF. When she was a child, whenever she would make drawings, it would be that of an aircraft. This was the reason why she also signed up for the National Cadet Corps (NCC).”
He added, “My daughter has let me hold my head high. I am overwhelmed as the dream which she saw has turned into reality.”
Hailing from Nagaur district of Rajasthan, Rathore’s first rescue mission (after being inducted into the IAF in 2016) was the deadly Kerala Floods of 2018. She had flown Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan for aerial surveys of the affected terrain at the time.
"The waters were rising so fast. Those people would not have survived the night if we had not reached them. When people desperate for survival look up to you to save them, it is a great responsibility,” she had told the media.
Rathore completed her school in Ajmer after which she joined the NCC Air Wing. She had wanted to become a pilot since her childhood and her dream became a reality when she was selected into the IAF, in her first attempt itself. She then cleared the Air Force Common Admission Test in 2013 and an interview by the Air Force Selection Board, Dehradun, in March 2014. Media reports say that over 200 women had come for the interview from across the country, of which 98 were selected for the screening process - which deducted the number to five women contenders. Of these five women, Rathore was the only woman who was selected for the flying branch.
Her latest achievement has brought her praises from her state’s political leaders including Former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje who tweeted, “It is a matter of pride for all of us that the daughter of Veerbhoomi #Rajasthan and Flight Lieutenant of Air Force #SwatiRathore will lead the ‘Fly Past’ in the parade on Rajpath on the occasion of Republic Day. I wish her a bright future!”
हम सभी के लिए गर्व का विषय है कि गणतंत्र दिवस के अवसर पर राजपथ पर होने वाली परेड में वीरभूमि #Rajasthan की बेटी और वायुसेना की फ्लाइट लेफ्टिनेंट #SwatiRathore 'फ्लाई पास्ट' का नेतृत्व करेंगी। मैं उनके उज्जवल भविष्य की कामना करती हूँ! pic.twitter.com/SMrFhouiwr
— Vasundhara Raje (@VasundharaBJP) January 22, 2021
Apart from Raje, Former Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot also tweeted, “My best wishes to Flight Lieutenant Swati Rathore, of the Indian Air Force, who will be the first woman to lead the flypast in the Republic Day parade this year. By this achievement, she has not only enhanced the pride of the state but has also set a unique example of women empowerment.”
इस वर्ष गणतंत्र दिवस पर होने वाली परेड में फ्लाई पास्ट का नेतृत्व करने वाली प्रथम महिला, वायुसेना की फ्लाइट लेफ्टिनेंट स्वाति राठौड़ जी को मैं शुभकामनाएं देता हूँ। इस उपलब्धि को हासिल कर उन्होंने न केवल प्रदेश का मान बढ़ाया अपितु महिला सशक्तिकरण की एक अनूठी मिसाल भी कायम की है।
— Sachin Pilot (@SachinPilot) January 22, 2021
(Edited by Athira Nair)