Aviation Pioneers

Sarla Thakral, the First Indian Woman to Fly an Aircraft

Sarla Thakral: India’s First Woman in the Sky

In a time when the aviation world was a man’s domain, a young Indian woman defied societal norms and soared into the sky. Sarla Thakral, born in 1914, wasn’t just passionate about flying – she became the first Indian woman to pilot an aircraft, paving the way for countless others to follow her trail.

Taking Flight in a Saree:

At the tender age of 21, in 1936, Sarla enrolled in the Lahore Flying Club, a bold move in a society where women were rarely seen venturing beyond traditional roles. Undeterred by the surprised and perhaps disapproving stares, she trained with unwavering determination. Her solo flight in a Gypsy Moth, clad in a traditional saree, became a defining moment in Indian aviation history. This wasn’t just about piloting a plane; it was about shattering age-old barriers and proving that women could not only take to the skies but excel in a field traditionally dominated by men.

Beyond the Solo Flight: A Life of Accomplished Wings:

Sarla’s journey wasn’t a one-time feat. She logged over 1,000 flying hours, showcasing exceptional skill and control. Her passion for aviation extended beyond the cockpit. She became a vocal advocate for women’s empowerment, using her platform to inspire countless young girls to reach for the stars, both literally and figuratively.

Facing Turbulence, Finding New Horizons:

Life wasn’t always smooth sailing for Sarla. The outbreak of World War II put her dreams of obtaining a commercial pilot license on hold. However, her spirit remained undaunted. She turned her talents to entrepreneurship, establishing a successful clothing business, proving that her resilience and resourcefulness extended far beyond the skies.

A Legacy that Takes Flight:

Sarla Thakral’s story is a testament to the power of human spirit and the limitless possibilities that await those who dare to dream. Her legacy continues to inspire generations of Indian women to chase their dreams, soar through the skies, and break boundaries, both in the air and on the ground.

More Than Just a Pilot:

Sarla Thakral’s impact transcends aviation. She is a symbol of:

  • Breaking gender stereotypes: Her solo flight challenged societal norms and proved that women could excel in traditionally male-dominated fields.
  • Paving the way for future generations: Her achievements inspired countless Indian women to pursue careers in aviation and beyond.
  • The power of determination: Despite facing challenges, Sarla never gave up on her dreams, demonstrating the power of unwavering spirit.

Soaring Beyond the Limits:

Sarla Thakral’s story is a reminder that the sky is not the limit. It’s just the beginning. Her journey teaches us that with passion, dedication, and a touch of defiance, we can all write our own extraordinary chapters, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles.


Anon. (n.d.), Sarla Thukral, Wikipedia, Retrieved 17 March 2022 < https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarla_Thukral >

IE Author (7 March 2022), International Women’s Day. Meet The Woman Who Became The First Female Pilot of India 85 Years Ago. Indian Eagle Travel Diary, Retrieved 17 March 2022 < https://www.indianeagle.com/traveldiary/sarla-thakral-the-first-woman-pilot-of-india/ >

For more aviators click.