India’s First Female Commercial Pilot, Captain Prem Mathur
A commercial woman pilot who didn’t let age restrict her ambitions. At the age of 38, she had her first flight as co-pilot & proved everyone that there is no particular age to chase one’s dream. Mathur started flying for Deccan Airways. She obtained her commercial pilot’s licence in 1947. In 1949, she won the National Air Race.
A young girl from Allahabad has dreams in her eyes and she was sure even the sky wasn’t her limit. She questioned the stereotypical roles assigned to women back in the 1950s, and took on a society that had yet to meet the nation’s first female commercial pilot.
She obtained her commercial pilot’s license in 1947 from Allahabad Flying Club. Initially she received a barrage of regret letters from commercial airlines as they did not want to take risk by employing women pilots. She refused to back down and insisted that the club give up petty patriarchal behaviour and stand for principles of merit. But the club wouldn’t listen. Prem Mathur was unstoppable. She wrote to many airlines and the only response she would get would be “Women can’t handle emergency situations as men.” Their excuse was the passengers won’t be comfortable sitting in the airliner with women in the cockpit.
Mathur started flying for Deccan Airways. She obtained her commercial pilot’s licence in 1947. In 1949, she won the National Air Race.
As the book The Girl Who Went to Stars notes, “Prem was almost disheartened and gave up home. But deep inside she knew what it takes to be a pilot.”
She got a call from Deccan Airways, an airline of the Nizam of Hyderabad. Prem was quizzed on aeroplanes, technicals and equipment and airline parts. She came out with flying colours. This would be her first job and Prem would create history. During her career at Deccan Airways, she flew high-profile people like Indira Gandhi, Lal Bahadur Shastri and Lady Mountbatten.
On 2nd October 1953, Capt. Prem Mathur started flying as Co-pilot with Indian Airlines and India became the first country in the world to employ a woman as a pilot in their IATA Airline Ltd. Clearly other airlines realised what it takes to fly in the talent and knowledge and that’s not determined by gender.
During her career at Deccan Airways, she flew high-profile people like Indira Gandhi, Lal Bahadur Shastri and Lady Mountbatten.
Captain Prem Mathur’s conviction about her talent, her work ethic is the material for history books. We should celebrate such a woman of courage and resilience who was no less than an Amelia Earhart for India, for both men and women.
Mathur married Hari Krishna Mathur who hails from Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh and they had six children together. Mathur died mysteriously at the age of 82 on 22nd December 1992.