Story of a Legend – Prem Mathur

The actions of a few revolutionary people have set the foundation of our society today. On our next GiveHer5 Story of a Legend, we focus on Captain Prem Mathur – A legendary woman who managed to shatter the walls of patriarchy and lay the foundation for women to enter the aviation industry, which was once dominated by men. She brought about a change that benefitted all the generations after her. She ensured that talent rather than gender would be the deciding factor, setting an example for equality with regards to professional opportunities.

Prem Mathur

Captain Prem Mathur was the first woman in India to fly a commercial plane. Back then, a woman being a pilot was unheard of, but Prem Mathur was the face of change. She obtained her commercial pilot license in 1947 from Allahabad Flying Club, after which she wrote to many airlines asking for a job, but instantly got rejected by all of them because they did not want to take any risks by employing a female pilot. Despite this, Prem Mathur remained persistent and did not blindly accept the stereotypical roles assigned to women. After a relentless pursuit for a job, she received an offer from Deccan Airlines, Hyderabad. At the age of 38, she flew her first flight as a co-pilot and was the first Indian woman to have done so. She flew people notable personalities such as Indira Gandhi and Lady Mountbatten. In 1949, she participated in the National Air Race in Calcutta, and despite having a mere hundred hours of flying experience, she defeated highly experienced male instructors and emerged victoriously.

Once she was confident about her skills as a pilot and was ready to take on more responsibility, she wrote to the authorities of Deccan Airways to put her in charge of a flight. Her request was denied as the authorities thought the passengers would not be comfortable if they knew there was a woman in the cockpit. Despite this, she did not give up on her dreams. She moved to Delhi and became a private jet pilot for the Birla family. A few years later, in October 1953, she joined Air India, where she spent the rest of her career flying planes, and this is how India became the first country in the world to employ a woman as a pilot in their IATA (International Air Transport Association) Airline Ltd. After seeing Air India accept a women pilot, other airlines too began doing the same, as they realised that gender does not determine talent.

Captain Prem Mathur is an inspiration to women all over the world because she made us realise if we have confidence in our abilities, no one can come in the way of us achieving our goals. She was the voice of change India needed, and due to her courage and resilience, and refusing to accept ‘no’ for an answer, she proved that women are in no way inferior to men. Women were always expected to be air hostesses rather than being in charge of the flight, but Captain Prem Mathur changed the way the airline industry viewed their employees and opened up opportunities for women in the cockpit too.

At Givher5, we believe in and work towards providing women with equal opportunities and salute the foundation laid in Indian history by Captain Prem Mathur.

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