Meet Sarla Thakral, India’s first woman to fly a plane

Sarla-Thukral India's first female pilot, Picture by STP


Sarla Thakral was India’s first ever woman to take to the skies. She got an ‘A’ grade license after 1,000 hours of flying, making history as she was the first one to do so. She was just 21 when she got her aviation license and in the same year she flew the Gypsy Moth (an aeroplane named after the insect). She goes down in our history as a badass woman who chased her ambitions, was obsessed with the high skies and would let nothing coming in the way of her journey.

Married at the tender age of 16, Sarla Thakral was mother to a 4 year old when she created history. In pre -partition times, the young woman took off in the two-seater plane in 1936 in Lahore. Here’s all you need to know about her. 

  1. She was born in 1914 in New Delhi, India. 
  2. After getting her initial license she flew over 1,000 hours on an aircraft owned by Lahore Flying Club.
  3. She was married to a person named P D Sharma when she was 16 years of age, who encouraged her to pursue her dreams. Sharma came from a family of pilots and enjoyed being in the skies himself. While, reports say he was first individual in India to get an airmail pilot’s license, and later she became the first woman pilot in India.
  4. It was devastating when her husband died in an airplane crash in 1939, after an expedition. She had a young daughter to support. 

    Sarla-Thukral India's first female pilot, Picture by STP

    Sarla-Thukral India’s first female pilot, Picture by STP

  5. Sarla went to Jodhpur for commercial pilot training. However, because of the announcement of the World War II she had to come back to Lahore and drop those plans to learn commercial flying. 
  6. She was an ardent follower of Arya Samaj, a community where remarriage was a possibility. She returned to Delhi after the Partition of India with her two daughters to pick her life up again.
  7. In Delhi, she got married to R.P Thakral in 1948. In this part of life, she established herself as a painter and a business woman. She started running her own textile printing and jewellery business which became a huge success.
  8. She went on to design jewellery and costumes for illustrious clients like Vijaylakshmi Pandit, as well as the various cottage emporiums and National School Of Drama. On local support structures, her experience was uniquely progressive.
  9. In 2008, at the age of 91, she passed away in all her glory. She is still remembered for her fearlessness and passion to follow her dreams. She is an inspiration for generations to come.