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Sarla Thukral's 107th Birthday: Google Doodle Honours India's First Woman to Fly an Aircraft

A screengrab of Sunday's Google doodle on Sarla Thukral.

A screengrab of Sunday's Google doodle on Sarla Thukral.

Sarla Thukral was born in Delhi, British India on this day in 1914 and later moved to Lahore in present-day Pakistan.

Google on Sunday celebrated Indian pilot, designer, and entrepreneur Sarla Thukral on her 107th birthday. The illustration of Thukral, who is often best known for being the first Indian woman to pilot an aircraft, was created by guest artist Vrinda Zaveri.

The search engine giant ran the same endearing Doodle honoring Sarla Thukral in India last year. Thukral left such a lasting legacy for women in aviation that we decided to run the Doodle this year in honor of her 107th birthday.

Sarla Thukral was born in Delhi, British India on this day in 1914 and later moved to Lahore in present-day Pakistan. Inspired by her husband who was an airmail pilot from a family of fliers, she began training to follow in their footsteps. At age 21, dressed in a traditional sari, she stepped into the cockpit of a small double-winged plane for her first solo flight. Lifting the craft into the sky, she made history in the process. Newspapers soon spread the word that the skies were no longer the province for only men.

And Thukral’s groundbreaking ascent did not stop there. As a student of the Lahore Flying Club, she completed 1,000 hours of flight time to gain her A licence, another first for Indian women. She then began preparation to become a commercial pilot, but the outbreak of World War II put a halt on civil aviation training. Instead, Thukral studied fine art and painting at Lahore’s Mayo School of Arts (now the National College of Arts). She later returned to Delhi where she continued painting and built a successful career designing jewelry and clothing.

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In the decades since, Thukral’s soaring achievements have paved the way for generations of Indian women to turn their dreams of flight into reality.

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first published:August 08, 2021, 09:24 IST