India's Women Pilot Association (IWPA)

How it all began...

Our Calling
What gets us flying...
How it all began...
Been there, done that, conferred!
Meet the IWPs
What we are up to...
What's in it for YOU?
Welcome to the Club!
Say you belong!
WebCaptain's Note
The E-geeks' Paradise

Isabelle McCray-Hale

It is 1966.
A flying nurse on a ship transiting thru the port of Bombay in India, Isabelle McCray waltzes in to the Bombay Flying Club to see the unexpected: Women! Women flying! Women in saris, checking their fuel tanks, walking around their Super Cubs, readying them for sorties; zzzzoooming into free flight via their westerly runway perched on the fishing village of Juhu!
Isabelle is amazed. She befriends the ladies and invites them to join the International Organisation of Women Pilots - the Ninety-Nines. Five ladies from India are sponsored by the Elcajon Chapter that Isabelle belongs to and before you know it, four of them have attended the 99s international conference, changing their perspective forever.
Almost simultaneously, in 1967 - the Indian Women Pilots Association and the 99s India Section are born. The Charter members are Chanda Sawant Budhabhatti, Mohini Shroff, Rabia Fatehally, Dr. Sunila Bhajekar and Capt. Durba Banerjee.
The IWPA ends up the 5th national organisation of it's kind in the world, next to the British Women Pilots Association, Australian Women Pilots Association, German Women Pilots Association and the Finnish Women Pilots Association.

The Pioneers

When India's first flying club for civilians opened in Bombay in 1929, amongst it's members were JRDT and his sisters, the Late Lady Dinshaw Petite and Mrs. Rodabey Sawney


However, the first lady to hold the distinction of getting certified was Urmilla Parekh. She acquired her Private Pilot License (no. 105) in 1930.


In I947 Prem Mathur started flying and became the first woman to obtain a Commercial Pilots License.

In 1950, she won the National Air Race arranged by the Aero Club of India.


In 1951, she became the first woman to be employed as a pilot by Deccan Airways. In her time she had the opportunity to fly very distinguished personalities like Lal Bahadur Shastry, Indira Gandhi, Lady Mountbatten etc.


In 1953, the National Domestic Airline came into being with the amalgamation of many private airlines. On 2nd October 1953, Capt. Prem Mathur started flying as Co-pilot with Indian Airlines and India became the first country in the world to employ a woman pilot in their IATA approved Indian Airlines Ltd.


In 1956, Capt. Durba Banerjee became the second woman commercial pilot of India and joined Indian Airlines as a Co-pilot sometime in 1966. Later she flew as Co-pilot on the B737 and got her Command in 1979.
In that same year, Raj Mitroo became the country's first woman glider pilot.


In 1967, Chanda Sawant Budhabhatti became the first woman to obtain an FAA Commercial Pilot certificate.


In 1976, the first woman flight instructor and agropilot took shape in Binodini Devi Laishram.


In 1984, Dr. Prabhavati Dixit became the first 65 year young ;) woman to obtain a Private Pilot License. 


In 1985, First lady Captain on a Fokker Friendship F-27 & the first woman in the world to Captain an all woman air crew that same year in November - none other than: Capt. Saudamini Deshmukh.


In 1987, she became the first Asian woman check pilot on F-27.


In 1988, first woman Captain on B737.


In 1989, first woman Captain to pilot an all-woman crew  on the B737.


In 1994, first woman Captain on Airbus A320 & that same year, first Asian woman to pilot an all-woman crew on the Airbus A320.


Meanwhile, in 1990, the World's youngest woman Commander on the B737 -  Capt. Nivedita Jain Bhasin.


In 1993 - The first woman to obtain a balloon & airship license? Anita Krishnan Yadav.


Not being left behind in the airforce, in 1995, Cheryl Dutta & Simran Sondhi team up to be the first woman flight cadets to constitute the first all-woman crew-ed helicopter flight.


In 1996, Capt. Indrani Singh became the first woman to command the Airbus A300 in India.


The youngest woman to acquire a commercial pilot license was Neetu Gupta, in 1997.


The first all-woman crew operating an international flight constituted Capt. Sangita Kabra-Bangar & Capt. Anupama Kohli, in 1998.


In 1998, First Indian woman to set a speed record (recognised by National Aeronautical Association, USA & Federation Aeronautique, International, France) - our President, Chanda Sawant-Budhabhatti.


In 2004, Capt. Sangita Kabra-Bangar became the first woman A320 Check Pilot.


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The Now
That's you! And me! And all the voices that we hear on the radio while flying everyday, increasingly becoming more and more feminine as each day passes by!
The IWPA is now in it's 39th year  of buzzing activity, so come join the fun! If you already have, check out our members-only section.
If not,
Get involved!
Speak your mind.
Mentor someone who needs the support.
Donate towards a scholarship fund!
They paved the way for us people, now its time for us to blaze our own new trail; paint the history picture that will show on this very site in another ten years to come, but in the now.
The now is powerful, lets wolf it down!

Indian Women Pilots' Association
Vinod Villa, 10th Road, Khar (W), Mumbai 400 052. #0091 22 2648 5318