Ram Nath Chawla

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Ram Nath Chawla
Ram Nath Chawla.jpg
Wing Commander Indian Air Force
Personal details
Born(1903-12-01)1 December 1903
British India
Military service
Allegiance British India (1933–1947)
 India (from 1947)

Ram Nath Chawla (1 December 1903-?) was an Indian pilot who in March 1930, in an attempt to win a flying competition set by the Aga Khan, was the first Indian to fly an aircraft from India to England. He was the main pilot of a de Havilland Gipsy Moth and was accompanied by 17-year-old Aspy Merwan Engineer, his co-pilot. The journey took 17 days. However, he did not win the competition as the rules stated that the flight needed to be completed solo.

He was later commissioned into the equipment branch of the Indian Air Force, becoming its senior officer, before he retired in 1953.

Early life[edit]

Ram Nath Chawla was born 1 December 1903.[1] After completing High School in Kasur,[2] he studied civil engineering at the University of Nottingham[3] and took flying lessons at the nearby Hucknall Aerodrome. In 1928, he received his flying licence from the Aero Club of London.[2][4]

Early flying career[edit]

In November 1929, keen on promoting aviation, the Aga Khan, 48th Iman of the Ismailai sect of Muslims,[5] announced a £500 prize[5] for the first Indian to fly solo between India and England, in either direction, within a one month time frame.[6]

Unable to cover the cost of participating, Chawla teamed up with 17-year-old Aspy Merwan Engineer, who had recently received his flying licence and a de Havilland Gipsy Moth aircraft as a birthday gift.[3][7] On 3 March 1930, with Chawla as the main pilot, they both flew the aircraft from PAF Base Faisal, Karachi, to Croydon Airport, England, taking 17 days.[8][9] After losing their way a number of times, they were received at Croydon by a welcoming crowd and presented with garlands of flowers by the Mayor of London and rewarded with 7,500 rupees from the Indian government.[2][8][10] Members of the Punjab Association and officials from the Air Ministry were also present.[11]

On 27 March 1930, The Wallington and Carshalton Times captured the arrival at Croydon with a photograph of both pilots and the headline "From India's coral strand". Under the image were the words "Victor’s laurels".[11]

A reception was held on 10 April 1930.[12] Aspy Engineer shortly returned to Karachi and won the prize, beating J. R. D. Tata by a few hours and winning over Man Mohan Singh due to a technical issue.[8]

The 1965 Who's Who of Aviation Directory of Asia describes Chawla as "the first Indian to pilot an aircraft from Karachi to Croydon, UK in 1930".[2]

Later flying career[edit]

In 1934, Chawla flew from India to England, solo, in a de Havilland Puss Moth.[2]

On 1 August 1940, following training at PAF Base Faisal, Karachi, he was commissioned into the Royal Air Force as an equipment officer.[2] After the partition of India, Chawla became the senior most equipment officer in the Indian Air force.[13] He retired as Wing Commander in 1953, having flown 960 hours as a civilian pilot.[2]


  1. ^ "Service Record for Flight Lieutenant Ram Nath Chawla 1626 EQPT at Bharat Rakshak.com". Bharat Rakshak. Retrieved 19 February 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Sapru, Somnath (2014). Combat Lore: Indian Air Force 1930-1945. KW Publishers. p. 442. ISBN 9789383649259.
  3. ^ a b "Flashback of first flier who flew farthest in 1930". The New Indian Express. 19 March 2017. Retrieved 19 February 2019.
  4. ^ Fyzee, Murad (1991). Aircraft and engine perfect: the story of JRD Tata who opened up skies for his country. Tata McGraw-Hill Pub. Co.
  5. ^ a b Chowdhry, Mohindra S. (2018). Defence of Europe by Sikh Soldiers in the World Wars. Troubador Publishing Ltd. p. 369. ISBN 9781788037983.
  6. ^ Rao, Prof L. S. Seshagiri (2000). J. R. D. TATA. Sapna Book House (P) Ltd. ISBN 9788128017438.
  7. ^ Singh, Farida. "Brothers-in-Arms : The Flying Engineer Brothers". www.bharat-rakshak.com. Retrieved 8 March 2019.
  8. ^ a b c "Aspy Engineer (1912–2002) – SP's Aviation". www.sps-aviation.com. Retrieved 16 February 2019.
  9. ^ "1930 | 0519 | Flight Archive". www.flightglobal.com. Retrieved 20 February 2019.
  10. ^ Burge, Cyril G. (1930). The Air Annual of the British Empire. Gale & Polden.
  11. ^ a b Cluett, Douglas; Nash, Joanna; Learmonth, Bob; Sutton Libraries and Arts Services (1980). "2. Life at the Airport". Croydon Airport: the great days, 1928-1939 : [by] Douglas Cluett, Joanna Nash, Bob Learmonth. Sutton, Surrey (Central Library, St Nicholas Way, Sutton, Surrey): London Borough of Sutton Libraries and Arts Services. pp. 16–18. ISBN 0950322482. OCLC 16475697.
  12. ^ "1930 | 0464 | Flight Archive". www.flightglobal.com. Retrieved 20 February 2019.
  13. ^ Engineer, Air Marshal Aspy. "Air Marshal Aspy Engineer's Recollections". www.bharat-rakshak.com. Retrieved 19 February 2019.

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