“Start pandemic It was very challenging for us as helicopter rescue pilots. Big challenge. You transferred one of the firsts from Bergamo to Rome Covid patients A few weeks later I brought it back. He was hospitalized in intensive care, he told us that when he woke up he found himself among the doctors and nurses wearing suits and masks. He knew nothing about the virus and thought they had hijacked it, asking how much they wanted for a ransom. Now it almost makes you smile, but it was an episode that really blew me away. ”
Serena Caruso, 41, Senior Officer, Leonardo AW 139 helicopter pilot for Babcock Italia, the main operator in helicopter rescue services. How many Covid patients have you transferred?
“So far, our company has transported a total of 160 of them. From March to April 2020, 13 Covid flights were carried out, even at night, and 20 negative patient cases were transferred from Como Base, but these transferred intensive care.”
Was it risky?
“In the absence of a specific protocol to protect individuals, Babcock Italia was the first operator in Europe to obtain temporary special approval from the Aviation Authority to use the biocontainment stretcher. Moreover, in agreement with the company Leonardo – the manufacturer of the helicopter – the cabin was closed to separate the sewage sector from the pilot sector. “We were on the front lines, transporting patients everywhere, from Frankfurt to Rieti, with very few casualties among staff.”
When did you decide to become a helicopter pilot?
“After high school, I started working for my family’s construction company in Aosta. My father used helicopters to transport materials at high altitudes. Flying was love at first sight. At 24 years old, my sliding doors. I have followed my true north. I attended Pegasus Helicopters School in Busano where I obtained my pilot’s license, then continued my studies in the United States and upon my return, in 2007, I obtained a commercial pilot license at the National Helicopters School. ”
How did they take it in the family?
“I grew up as an Oscar lady, there were no differences between me and my brother. My father taught us to be free from prejudice, to be free to choose, and to be free from social and cultural expectations. Free to consciously decide what we want to do in life.”
Did you choose to work in the rescue or is it a coincidence?
“In the beginning it was a case, then a choice. I traveled in Italy and abroad, in Kosovo, Mozambique and Cyprus. For three years I work at the H24 Helicopter Rescue Base in Como, the first in Italy to develop night flights with the help of NVG viewers.”
The helicopter sector is predominantly male. Did you find it difficult to establish yourself?
“There are still a few women in the helicopter sector. But I have not encountered obstacles, my experience shows that there are no gender barriers in this business. Passion, study and dedication allow you to get there. I would like not to talk about the pink quota but about competence, this diversity has not been tested as a punishment but as a challenge, and a value that must be brought into the world of work. I believe in the will to transcend stereotypes to create an innovative culture that values diversity. I like to talk about diversity and not about gender. From difference, confrontation and change are born. Our company takes care of these issues and has put us in a position to operate in a quiet manner. I found myself in a rescue helicopter with a crew of 4 women including a doctor and a nurse. A perfect example of integration ».
Did this job cost you any waiver?
“I have no children. This work requires constant displacement, one day in Lampedusa and another day in Kosovo, which entails objective logistical difficulties. But this satisfies a lot, in the rescue operation, you fly by helicopter for the benefit of human life. You learn teamwork, to manage emotions, To communicate firmly, to consider the error, to understand your talents, to go beyond material successes and strength, this is momentary, to be sympathetic and to enhance the quality of human relationships. The journey kidnapped me and gave me all this. ”
Do you have a passion other than flying?
“All mountain sports, cycling, skiing, climbing. I became passionate about the human side of work and social relations, and in 2017 I graduated in Technical and Psychological Sciences, a three-year degree in Psychology. I am currently completing my masters degree. I am part of the Crew Resource Management Training Team and I take care, in the company, of all those aspects related to human factors and fault management in the aviation sector. Flying was my dream and it still excites me. ”