Karachi Women in Aviation

Dr. Sohail Ansari
Aviation has a big part in the history of Karachi. We know about a few foreign women explorers making historical journeys to or from Karachi creating a number of records. Whilst that was happening, Karachi Aero Club encouraged local women too. This is a report from December 1929:


The biggest flying meeting yet held in India took place, last evening, under the auspices of the Karachi Aero Club, in co-operation with the Air Force and Imperial Airways.
Throughout the afternoon, without intermission, aeroplanes were in the air, carrying passengers; hundreds of whom flew in the club’s Moth planes, as well as in the Imperial Airways airliner City of Delhi.
Cups and prizes were given away by clubs.
The presence of Hindu women pilots testified to the growth of air mindedness on live part of Indians.
(I guess the reporting journalist meant ‘Indian’ rather than ‘Hindu’)

Amidst all this the first Indian woman to fly an aircraft and earn an aviation pilot license in 1936 was Sarla Thakral. She used to fly between Karachi and Lahore and was the first Indian woman to fly solo. Following partition, she moved to Delhi.

Whereas, Pakistan’s first female commercial pilot was Shukriya Khanum. She joined PIA in 1959 but had to accept the job of flight instructor at its training centre. That was because the airline did not allow female pilots to fly commercial planes. She very often took flying enthusiasts on joy rides at Karachi Flying Club.

On this page, I had, in the past, shared stories of various overseas female aviators. So I will limit this one to the two ladies mentioned above.

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Image may contain: 3 people, people standing and shoes

About Amin H. Karim MD

Graduate of Dow Medical College Class of 1977.
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