India’s First Female Pilot May Have Inspired a Generation

Sarla Thakral was India's first female pilot. (Wikipedia)

Some say India has become one of the world’s best places for women to fly — 12% of Indian pilots are women, higher than the global average of 3%. That history traces all the way back to Sarla Sharma Thakral who, at 21 in 1936, became the first Indian woman to fly an aircraft, donned in a sari.

“For us, sari isnt the most comfortable attire to wear ever,” laughed Priyanka Srivastava, 32, a captain from Mumbai. “For her to be wearing something like that while flying was amazing.” Yet, Srivastava adds, Thakral’s story wasn’t popularly told when she was growing up.

Thakral was born in Delhi in 1914 in an undivided India. She