Indian Women Pilots

Women in Aviation

March is Women in History month and also Women of Aviation month. As I started to write this article, I realized I knew so little about women pilots of India. Even less who the first woman was to have taken flight.

There is a lot of misinformation about who the first women pilot of India was. Some sites (including wikipedia and IWPA) attribute this to Sarla Thakral while others claim it is Urmila Parikh. Based on the dates and veracity of the source,  it appears Urmila Parikh was the first women pilot of India. She obtained her license in 1932 while Sarla Sharma ne` Thakral obtained it in 1936.

The first woman to obtain her commercial pilot’s license was Prem Thakur in 1948. She later started flying for Deccan Airlines. In 1956, Durba Bannerjee became the first woman inducted into the Indian Airlines and in 1990, Nivedita Bhasin became the youngest woman to command a jet at the age of 26. She was also the first woman check pilot for A300. The first Indian woman to obtain an FAA pilot’s license in 1967 was Chanda Buddhabatti, who started the Indian Women Pilots Association.

It was interesting to learn that the growth of women pilots in India is happening faster than the rest of the world. About 11.6% of the pilots in India are women. The last five years, almost 14.7% of the commercial licenses’ issued were issued to women. More than 48% of the workforce in airline industry is composed of women.

  • India currently has 586 women pilots out of a total of 5050 pilots in the country
  • Of whom 187 are commanders. Globally there are 480 women commanders.
  • Of whom 399 are co-pilots.

Unfortunately, India still has no general aviation presence.


Press Information Bureau, Government of India
Chandigarh Tribune
Indian women pilots soar past global average
Indian Women Pilots Association

8 thoughts on “Indian Women Pilots

  1. Cheryl "Cheffie Cooks" Wiser March 16, 2015 / 2:09 am

    Greetings from sunny Florida. I too am surprised there are no FBO’s in India? Why do you think that is?


    • Flynthings March 16, 2015 / 11:08 am

      I think cost is the factor. Although the last few years I heard talk of it. I think there is an interest but it is going to be a while before it is widely seen.

      Liked by 1 person

      • taildraggerfeller March 16, 2015 / 12:43 pm

        The same is true in China. They have had a presence at Oshkosh the last couple of years promoting general aviation and recently Chelsea Abingdon Welch flew over there for promotional purposes.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. taildraggerfeller March 16, 2015 / 2:54 am

    Good research on this. Thanks for sharing. It’s very interesting to me that there are so many female pilots, or even any pilots at all, in a country with no general aviation. How do you even learn to fly in that case? I guess you would apply to an airline, and if you get accepted you take classes in a college type setting.


    • Flynthings March 16, 2015 / 11:10 am

      There are flight schools but they have a structured program that takes you through the complete program almost like obtaining a degree.


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