16th Aug 2021   |   Glow & Lovely Careers   |     |  
3 min read

Inspiring Success Story of Capt. Prem Mathur

Women Achievers

Capt. Prem Mathur broke stereotypes one after the other, all in one go. An Indian married woman born during the pre-independence period flying a commercial plane.

She entered a male-dominated profession and emerged victoriously. Rejections fuelled her determination to fly. She believed that a person’s merit should be a deciding factor rather than their gender - An attempt towards gender equality regarding career opportunities.

Today, of course, things have changed so much. There are so many opportunities available for women – from work from home opportunities to scholarships and so much more! But things were not as easy for Captain Prem Mathur!

Her career’s plane never seemed to take off

Unlike the conservative Indian women from the pre-independence era, Prem’s ambitions were not to stay on the ground but to fly in the sky. And she made efforts concerning her dreams.

While the world knew the concept of a female pilot thanks to Amelia Earhart, people never imagined an Indian woman attempting such a task. And Prem did just that. She learnt to fly planes and earned her commercial licence in 1947 from the Allahabad Flying Club. That was the beginning of her journey.

A common practice after getting a licence is to apply for a job, and Prem did that. She applied for the role of a commercial pilot to many airlines. Airline Companies then did not prefer a female pilot.

Prem got rejected whenever she applied for the job of a pilot. She was determined as well as resilient.

After 8 rejections, Prem got the opportunity she required. She was offered the job as a commercial pilot at Deccan Airways in Hyderabad. At 38, when most women think of retiring or taking a break, Prem was beginning her flying career.  

Pilot to Co-pilot Prem Mathur

Prem initially had to fly as a co-pilot. During her career at Deccan Airways, she flew many high-profile personalities such as Indira Gandhi, Lal Bahadur Shastri and Lady Mountbatten. She was the first Indian woman to do so. But as a co-pilot.

In 1949, she participated in the National Air Race in Kolkata. She had clocked very few hours of flying experience but yet defeated highly experienced male instructors.

Prem then applied to fly as the Captain, which Deccan Airways dismissed.

Shifting the gears

After getting a rejection from Deccan Airways, Prem moved to Delhi, where she assumed a private jet pilot position for G.D. Birla. Her approach was different, but the end goal was the same- Flying a plane as the Captain.

Co-pilot to Capt. Prem Mathur

After flying for the Birla’s, Prem joined Air India in 1953 and started steering commercial planes as the Captain and not as a Co-pilot. She was the first Indian to head a commercial aircraft. India thus became the first country in the world to employ a woman as a Captain in their IATA (International Air Transport Association). Later other airlines started admitting women as Captains.

Creating a runway for generations to come

Women in aeroplanes meant air-hostesses - Another stereotype broken by Capt. Prem Mathur. Her determination and efforts changed the Aviation industry’s perception of their female employees. She has been instrumental in getting the women from the cabin to the cockpit.

Today, women have made their mark everywhere. There are so many success stories of women around us. And all these stories are very inspiring.

And it is not just these big, newspaper headline-grabbing inspirational stories of women. But there are also small everyday success stories – which are equally inspiring. They seem to tell every girl to soar high – Just like Captain Prem Mathur did!


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