Mission Aviation Fellowship

India’s lead in female pilot numbers is in part thanks to this woman

The Indian Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), say a record number of commercial  pilot licences (CPL) were issued in the country last year. Now the aviation authority claims that India has the highest percentage of women pilots in the world.

DGCA analysts state that the Indian airline industry is experiencing a strong period of growth. In January 2024 Indian airlines had accumulated about 1,620 outstanding aircraft orders, a number that is expected to rise to over 2,000 aircraft by March 2025.

To meet demand and airline growth targets the Indian pilot work force must increase in order to maintain pace.

The DGCA reports that the number of CPLs it issued in 2023 increased by 39.2% compared to 2022. Furthermore, the national aviation authority says that over the last decade CPLs have almost double from 783 in 2013 to 1,622 in 2023. Importantly the percentage of CPLs issued to women has nearly tripled in number to almost 300 across the same period.

As a result, the DGCA statisticians claim the Indian women pilots make up 14% of its pilot workforce compared a global average of 6%. Talking about 2023 licencing figures a DGCA official said: “It is estimated that 14% of the workforce employed with scheduled airlines consists of women pilots. This is the second consecutive year where the number of licences issued has witnessed a decade high.”

India’s first female commercial pilot was Prem Mathur. Born in 1910, and at the age of 38 she achieved her dream of gaining her first commercial piloting job with Deccan Airlines. To begin with she had to complete six months of unpaid work in order to prove to Deccan’s management that she was  capable of doing the job.

Subsequently Mathur was turned down for a command promotion due to concerns that crew and passengers would be uncomfortable having a women in charge. Due to the unfair treatment Mathur subsequently left the airline becoming a charter pilot for businessman G.D Birla.

Later in 1953 Mathur became India’s first female airline Captain after securing a command position with Indian Airlines. Mathur work with the major until retiring in 1984. Over the course of her 30 years in the skies, Mathur inspired a generation of women  pilots in India.


Author: FTN Editor

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