October 12, 1799 An aviation milestone took place when Jeanne Geneviéve Labrosse Garnerin, who was flying in a hot-air balloon in the skies over France, became the first woman to make a parachute descent back to earth. The balloon was approximately 2,953 feet (900 meters) above the ground when she made this descent, with her […]
I was annoyed from the start by the attitude of doubt by the spectators that I would never really make the flight. This attitude made me more determined than ever to succeed.
— Harriet Quimby, just prior to her flight across the English Channel, 1912.
Photo Courtesy: Library of Congress
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.