Smart Girl Stories
Sarla Thukral
Stories of inspiration from Smart Girl Stories across the globe. Sarla Thukral – First Indian Woman To Fly An Aircraft

Sarla Thukral – First Indian Woman To Fly An Aircraft

Sarla Thukral is a trailblazer who serves as an inspiration to women around the world. At the young age of 21, Sarla, dressed in a traditional sari, stepped into the cockpit of a small double-winged plane for her first solo flight, making history. Later in life, Sarla continued her prestigious accomplishment of becoming a designer and entrepreneur.

Sarla Thukral’s inspiring life story continues to influence women everywhere in making their dreams become a reality.

Early Life And Marriage Of Sarla Thukral

Born on 8th august 1914, Sarla earned an aviation pilot license in 1936 and, at the age of 21 became the first Indian woman to fly an airplane solo. Sarla completed this historical feat in a Gypsy Moth,  a British two-seater tourist and training aircraft.

After obtaining her initial license, she persevered and completed one thousand hours of flying in the aircraft owned by the Lahore Flying Club. She was the first Indian woman to complete the full amount of hours. Her husband, P. D. Sharma, whom she married at age 16, came from a family of nine pilots and encouraged her to follow her dreams. Soon after her flight, the newspapers soon spread the word that the skies were no longer just for men.

Aviation Career 

Sarla’s husband, Sharma was the first Indian to get his airmail pilot’s license, spending most of his time between Karachi and Lahore. However, tragically, Sharma died in an airplane crash in 1939.

After some time had passed, Sarla wanted to apply to train for her commercial pilot license, but unfortunately, World War II had begun, and civil training was suspended. With a child to raise and needing to earn her livelihood, Sarla was forced to abandon her plans to become a commercial pilot. She returned to Lahore and attended the Mayo School of Art , where she trained in the Bengal school of painting, obtaining a diploma in fine arts. 

Personal Life And Death

Sarla was a dedicated follower of the Arya Samaj, a spiritual community that followed the Vedas’ teachings. In this community, remarriage was possible, so after the Partition of India, she moved to Delhi with her two daughters, where she met R. P. Thakral and married him in 1948. 

Later in life, Sarla, also known as Mati, transformed into a successful businesswoman and painter. She began designing clothes and costume jewellery. Her dedication to her business brought her success once again, supplying Cottage Emporium and selling her designs to the National School of Drama.

Sarla Thukral Continues To Inspire

Sarla was a remarkable woman whose remarkable story ensured her legacy for eternity. She fought the stigmas and taboos of her society to keep pushing forward with her dreams, usually with only her indomitable determination and passion as shields against the negativity of nay-sayers.

Sarla died in 2008 but left behind a legacy that has inspired women worldwide not to be held back by societal expectations, barriers or limitations. Sarla will always be remembered as a strong role model who embodied courage and perseverance, regardless of any hardships she faced along the way.



Founder, Smart Girl, Survivor, Champion of womens rights and kids rights


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