Aviation Pioneers

Shukriya Khanum, the First Woman to Become a Commercial Pilot in Pakistan

There are numerous women in aviation who achieved great feats that took the industry forward. These brave women showed everyone that despite all the difficulties and discrimination they faced, they were capable of accomplishing greatness. In this blog post we are going to learn about the life and aviation career of one such woman, Shukriya Khanum, who is the first woman to become a commercial pilot in Pakistan. So, let’s start and get informed about the inspirational story of this skilled aviator.

Early Life and Education of Shukriya Khanum

Shukriya Khanum was born in 1935 in Pakistan. While she is an important figure for the development of aviation in Pakistan, especially for women. There is not much information about her early life, however we can say that becoming an aviator and experiencing the beauty of the skies firsthand must have been a childhood dream for her. Because even though she faced many difficulties during this process, she managed to get her flying license and become a pilot.

In 1959, Shukriya Khanum graduated from the Government College in Karachi, at the age of 24. Quickly after her graduation, she got her flying license the same year. In order to get her license, Khanum took flying lessons from Lahore Flying Academy which was at Walton Airport, Lahore. As she received her flying license, she managed to become the first woman in Pakistan to become a commercial pilot.

shukriya khanum
Shukriya Khanum

Shukriya Khanum’s Aviation Career

Although She received her flying license as a commercial pilot, she couldn’t build a career around flying commercially. Because during that time in her country, women weren’t allowed to fly commercial planes. However she didn’t let this stop her from exploring her true potential. So after receiving her flying license, Shukriya Khanum started working for Pakistan International Airlines (PIA).

Since the rules didn’t allow her to fly a commercial airplane, she started working as a flying instructor for the PIA. While working there as an instructor, she taught new trainees how to fly a plane. So even though she was not allowed to display her skills to the fullest as a commercial pilot due to unreasonable rules, she tried making the best of the situation.

Along with working as a flight instructor at PIA, Shukriya Khanum also provided flight sessions for aviation lovers at the Karachi Flying Club. As a result of a regime change in Pakistan in the late 1970s, the rules became even more unreasonable. Because of these rules, women and men couldn’t work in the same area, which caused Shukriya Khanum to have to stop flying completely. After this she no longer could work as a pilot and her duty was limited to a ground flight instructor.

Later Years, Death and Legacy

Following the regime change, Shukriya Khanum was no longer allowed to fly an aircraft. Decades later Khanum getting her flying license, Ayesha Rabia, another brave female aviator from Pakistan, became the first Pakistani female commercial pilot who could fly without such limitations as Khanum has faced. Ayesha Rabia met Shukriya Khanum 1989 and Khanum’s advice to her was to always focus on professionalism.

On the 14th of May 2017, She died in the Shaukat Khanum Hospital, Lahore, at the age of 82. Today she is remembered as a courageous Pakistani female aviator who wasn’t afraid to pursue her dreams despite all challenges.


Anon. (n.d.), Shukriya Khanum, Wikipedia, Retrieved 24 March 2022

< https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shukriya_Khanum >

Tahir Imran (15 May 2017), Shukriya Khanum: Pakistan’s first female commercial pilot dies, BBC News, Retrieved 24 March 2022

< https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-39922670 >