Women Achievers

The year 1936, a 21 year old woman forever changed the face of aviation in India by taking to the skies. She, Sarla Thakral was India’s first lady pilot.

At a time when aviation was unexplored by women she entered the cockpit of a Gypsy Moth and claimed the skies. Her husband Mr. P.D. Sharma was the initiator and her father-in-law supported her all the way.  She obtained her ‘A’ license when she accumulated over 1000hours of flying.

She was training in Jodhpur, trying to obtain her ‘B’ license which would authorize her to fly as a commercial pilot when she, unfortunately lost her husband in a crash in the year 1939.  Widowed at the age of 24 she abandoned her plans to become a commercial pilot.

She was the first woman to obtain the Commercial Pilot’s License in 1947 and few domestic airlines as a co-pilot. She was also the first woman to win the National Air race.

She was the first lady pilot of Indian Airlines in the year 1956.

Smt Chanda was the first woman to obtain FAA Commercial, Instrument and Ground Instructors license in 1967, and Sea Plane Commercial License in 2004. In 1967, she founded the Indian Women Pilots’ Association and was the founder/governor of India Section of the Ninety Nines, USA 1979.

She was Co-Pilot on the 21st Annual All Women Transcontinental Air Race from east Coast to West Coast JULY 8-11, 1967 USA, and Set Two speed.

Mohini Shroff started flying as a government scholar at Bombay Flying Club (BFC) in 1959. She applied for the G.D. Pilot’s post in Auxillary Air Force in 1960, but was rejected as women were not eligible at that time.

She became Charter Member of the Ninety-Nines Inc., India Section formed in 1965. She was also one of the Founder members of IWPA formed in 1966, and was elected Jt. Hon. Secretary and Hon. Treasurer.

She received her Commercial Pilot’s License in 1073, from USA with the assistance scholarship form the members of the Ninety-Nines –South West Sections and supported by Mrs. Marion Barnick – the then Governor. She won a Spot Landing Competition in 1984 at the BFC, and was elected the First Lady Hon. Secretary of BFC in 1993.

In 2003, she was appointed International Director for Overseas Members by the Ninety-Nines Inc., at the International Convention in Huntsville, Alabama. She was honoured by the International Forest of Friendship, USA in 2002.

Mohini is also the first lady to participate in the Air Race- India organised by the Aeronautical Society of India, in 2003. She holds a current Private Pilot’s License No. 158 till date and is a Hobby Flyer. 

Rabia was catapulted into joining the neighbouring Flying Club when all the male members of her family –Father, husband, and three brothers –went off to learn to fly. Her father said, “My daughter shall fly along with my sons.” She was instantly addicted: having soloed within a couple of weeks in 11 hours, she procured her “A” License within three months, in 1962. When the Licensing was revised to PPL and CPL, she quickly converted, and hols PPL No. 13; perhaps the first woman in India to do that. In the relaxed ATC atmosphere and minimal commercial movement of the 1960’s, she flew extensively over India in the single engined tail-dragger Piper PA 18, and the World War L 5, solo. In 1967, this was formalized as the Indian Women Pilots’ Association with – Members. In 1967, the President of the 99s came down from the US to give us the Charter of the India Section of the Ninety-Nines. Rabia has held continuous Executive Posts in both the IWPA, and is a Member of the Managing Committee of the Bombay Flying Club. Her three daughters and one grand daughter are hobby flyers.

My Message to IWPA: To you from failing hands we pass the Torch, Be yours to hold it high. 

Capt. Saudamini Deshmukh was Captain on Fokker Friendship F-27 in September 1985 and the Captain of All Women Crew flight F-27 on 29th November, 1985.

This was the first All Women Crew flight in the world on any aircraft amongst Airlines which are members of the I.A.T.A (International Air Transport Association). She was also the first woman in Asia to become a Check-Pilot on F-27 in March, 1987.  She was the first woman commander of a Boeing 737 on 26th July 1988 and commanded an All Women Crew flight on the Boeing 737 on the 16th September 1989, a first of its kind on the a Jet Aircraft in Asia.

On 24th May 1994 she became the First Woman in Asia to be a Captain on the A-320, a sophisticated and computerized Fly-By-Wire Aircraft, totally different from the conventional type of Jet Aircraft. She also commanded the first All-Women-Crew flight on the Airbus A-320 on 9th June, 1995 in India and Asia.

She has been conferred the following awards;

1977- Achievement award from the Ninety Nines Inc.

1988 – Certificate of appreciation from the Ninety-Nines Inc,

1991- The Forest of Friendship award and the F.I.E. Foundation award at Ichalkaranjee, Maharashtra, India

Nivedita Bhasin’s aviation career started with aero-modelling, wherein in the first year she was awarded with the 1st prize in the year 1979. She learnt gliding and was rewarded as being ‘The most enthusiastic glider pilot’ as well as ‘the youngest glider pilot’ at the age of 16 by late Shri Sanjay Gandhi.
By the time Bhasin was out of school, she was a Private Pilot and received a scholarship to complete her Commercial Pilot’s License. She soon became an Assistant Flight Instructor and then joined Indian Airlines in 1984 as the third woman pilot in the country. She trained to fly the Fokker Friendship F27 airplane and together with Saudamini Deshmukh, flew the first All Women Crew Flight in the world in 1985. She was soon promoted to flying the Boeing 737 airplanes and in the year 1989, became the youngest jet woman commander in the world.
In 1990, she was inducted in the prestigious Captains Club of ISA +21, the International Society of Women Airline Pilots. In 1991, she was awarded and felicitated at the International Forest of Friendship, Atchison, Kansas, USA, where a plaque with her name engraved on it was embedded in the forest walkway.
By 1997, she was flying the wide bodied A300 and became the first lady training Captain on a wide body aircraft. Currently she is a Deputy General Manager- Operations in Air India and has held various portfolios such as Flight Safety, Flight Dispatch and Crew Scheduling. In 2008, she became a Captain on the state of the art, fly-by wire, wide bodied A330 and a training Captain in 2010.
She is also the governor of the Ninety Nines Inc, (India Section). Her passion besides flying is photography, which she many indulge in full-time at a later stage in life. Her other interests include trekking, golf and swimming.

Years ago, Capt. Sangita Kabra Bangar joined Indian Airlines in January 1988 as the only woman amongst a batch of 20. Today, she has accumulated 14800+ hours of flying experience.
Capt Sangita was part if the first all-women flight crew on the A320 as a co-pilot with Capt. Saudamini Deshmukh. She commanded the first all-women international flight, Mumbai-Karachi-Mumbai with Capt. Anupama Kohli as her co-pilot. She later went on to become the first woman check-pilot and Instructor in Air-India on the A320 fleet.
Her message to other aspiring women is “Follow your heart and excel in what you do” and for the pilots, “An average pilot is better than an excellent, or an over-confidant one”.

Manisha’s love and passion for flying started when she was studying for her Indian Administrative Services exam while doing her Post Graduation. She applied for scholarship of flying and got selected for 60 hours of flying at the Bhopal Flying Club. There was no looking back from here. Even though there were many hurdles, especially in those days women were not heard of as pilots in India. It was a difficult task for Manisha to first convince her family and then to organize the funds.

Manisha proceeded to Fort Worth Dallas (US) for her further flying. Having completed her CPL she returned to India and was selected by Indian Airlines (now Air India) in Oct 1988 and since then has been with the same company. In this long journey of flying since 1986to date, she has experienced challenging situations which have taught her to live life to its fullest.

Even today she likes to take some time out by visiting couple NGO’s who run schools for economically weaker sections of the society. As part of extra-curricular activities she has organized events, educational and aviation related fun filled trips  to ATC Delhi, Planetarium, Activity of Adventure sports, Aero-modelling show, etc.

Tulsi Mirchandani is the Managing Director and Accountable Manager for Blue Dart Aviation, South Asia’s largest domestic cargo airline that has successfully sustained and grown its operations since its inception in 1996, from a fleet of 2 Boeing 737-200s in the very challenging Indian aviation environment. Apart from scheduled aviation, Blue Dart aviation carried out all its own frame maintenance and round handling activities.
Tulsi has been actively associated with the airline and express industry in India for over thirty five years. As the senior Vice-President -Marketing and Projectsand Senior advisor for Blue Dart Express, she was instrumental in creating and marketing the air cargo products for the launch of Blue Dart Aviation in 1996. Her other achievements include major accounts interline agreements with International airlines, initiating charter services and settling up accounting, sales, and operation systems for these services. She joined Blue Dart Aviation in 2008.

She is from Jet Airways and is the first woman Pilot Examiner in any airline in India. She obtained her commercial pilot’s license from IGRUA, and obtained her type endorsement on the Boeing 737 in 1997. She became a Check Pilot in 2002, Instructor in 2006 and an Examiner in December 2008. She is also the first woman pilot and commander in a private airline and has operated to critical airfields such as Leh and Thoice.

Mrs. Singh obtained her Commercial Pilots License from IGRUA in 1988 and was selected as the first Woman pilot in Air India. However, due to medical reasons she did not pursue active flying but came back with a never to die spirit as the first woman Ground Instructor for pilots in an airline.

Besides being the first Human Factors and CRM Facilitator, she is also the first woman Head of Quality Management Systems in an airline and the first Lead Auditor and Evaluator for International Quality and safety Standards for IOSA, ISAGO and LOSA. She has obtained the diploma in Safety Management System and Risk Management and is the first woman head of Corporate SMS and Convenor for Risk Management in an airline. She is also the first woman to head the Emergency Response in an airline and conceptualise the ‘Angels of Air India’ for Humanitarian Response.

Her latest role includes the additional responsibility to Head the Environment Management and Green Initiatives, besides the Fuel Management and Operational Efficiency Programme. She is currently working as General Manager in Air India. She has won many awards, including ‘Bharat Nirman Award’, ‘Swarna Jayanti Award’ by AeSI, Outstanding Young Person Award by ‘International Jaycees’ and has been honoured by the International Forest of Friendship, USA.

She is the first woman commercial helicopter license holder in Civil Aviation of India. She logged 1500 hours of off shore flying with Pawan Hans, flying the Dauphin SA 365 N. She is presently flying with Indigo as a First Officer on the A-320 aircraft.  She has a unique combination of skill wherein she is certified to fly both helicopters as well as fixed wing aeroplanes. She has also been honoured by the International Forest of Friendship, USA.

She joined Indian Air Force in Jan 1995, got commissioned as a helicopter pilot in June 1996 after rigorous training of 18 months. Served highly esteemed organisation IAF for 10 years retired as a Squadron Leader. In IAF flew Alouette and Lama, single engine helicopter in all kinds of terrain. Flew as PIC and accumulated 2000 hours of experience. Fully ops in all roles of Helicopters like Casualty Evacuation, Forward Area Control, Combat SAR.
Joined Pawan Hans Helicopter Ltd. flying Dauphin, Twin engine helicopter SA365’N’, gained 700 hours of flying experience till date. Flying mainly in Andaman Nicobar Islands, North East as well as for NTPC commitment which involves flying all over India.