Pratap Chandra Lal

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Pratap Chandra Lal

ACM PC Lal.jpg
Born(1916-12-06)6 December 1916
Ludhiana Punjab, India
DiedAugust 1982 (aged 67)
Allegiance British India (1940-1947)
 India (from 1947)
Service/branch Royal Air Force
 Indian Air Force
Years of service1939-1973
RankAir Chief Marshal of IAF.png Air Chief Marshal
Commands heldWestern Air Command
Training Command
No. 7 Squadron
Battles/warsWorld War II
Indo-Pakistani War of 1965
Indo-Pakistani War of 1971
Other workChairman and MD, HAL
GM, Indian Airlines

Air Chief Marshal Pratap Chandra Lal, DFC (6 December 1916 – August 1982) was the Chief of Air Staff (CAS) of the Indian Air Force during the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971. He served in the IAF from 1939 until his retirement in 1973, he was the CAS at the time of Operation Chengiz Khan, the preemptive strikes that were carried out by the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) that marked the formal initiation of hostilities of the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971.

He also served as the General Manager of the Indian Airlines Corporation from 1957 to 1962. Later, from 1966 to 1969, Lal served as the Managing Director and later Chairman of the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

Early life and education[edit]

Pratap Chandra Lal was born on 6 December 1916 in Ludhiana. Having qualified for a diploma in journalism at King's College, London in 1938, Lal expected to return to full-time study of law at the Inns of Court in the fall of 1939.[1] With the outbreak of World War II, his plans were shelved. Since he held a civilian pilot license, Lal was invited to join the Air Force Volunteer reserve.

Military Career[edit]

After appearing before the Selcetion Board at Safdarjung, Lal arrived at the Pakistan Air Force Academy (presently Pakistan Air Force Academy) in Risalpur.[2] Since there was a shortage of navigators, Lal was recruited as a navigator to begin with and would be trained as a pilot later, he was commissioned in 1940 as a Pilot Officer and posted to Karachi as an Observer. He was later posted back to Risalpur as a navigation instructor. After a short stint at the Coastal Defence Flight in Calcutta, Lal was posted as a Navigation Instructor at No. 1 Flying Training School at Ambala. It was here that, while instructing as a navigator, he was trained as a pilot, he flew the Hawker Audax and the Hawker Hart.

In 1943, Flight lieutenant Lal joined, as a combat pilot, the No. 7 Squadron commanded by Squadron Leader Hem Chaudhuri. In June 1944, Lal was promoted to the rank of Squadron Leader and took command of the No. 7 Squadron. From early 1944 to March 1945, the squadron was very active in the Burma Campaign. At the end of the war, Lal was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.[3]

The citation read:

Sqn Ldr Lal has completed a considerable number of operational sorties, He is the Commanding Officer of a squadron which has been employed on photographic reconnaissance in support of the Fourteenth Army in the Irrawaddy Valley. he has shown exceptional qualities and keenness and has completed many hazardous sorties in the wake of strong enemy opposition. He has frequently penetrated deep into enemy territory in search of important information. By his coolness and determination, Sqn Ldr Lal has set a fine example to all his pilots.[4]


  1. ^ "Pratap Chandra Lal Padam Vibhushan, Padam Bhushan, DFC CAS | Indian Air Force | Government of India".
  2. ^ My years with the IAF. Lancer Publishers. p. 16. ISBN 8170620082.
  3. ^ "No. 37313". The London Gazette (Supplement). 16 October 1945. p. 5123.
  4. ^ My years with the IAF. Lancer Publishers. p. 47. ISBN 8170620082.
Military offices
Preceded by
Arjan Singh
Chief of the Air Staff (India)
Succeeded by
Om Prakash Mehra