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Tuesday October 26th, 2021

Sri Lanka civil aviation in historic Covid-19 challenges in 2020

DIFFICULT TIME: Sri Lanka airport staff helping passengers in a Coronavirus pandemic.

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is marking the International Civil Aviation Day on December 07 with the sector facing severe challenges, with air travel disrupted around world and in the island.

“We celebrate the International Civil Aviation Day at a time the aviation industry in the whole world has been challenged by the COVID-19 global pandemic since February 2020,” Airport and Aviation Services of Sri Lanka, the state-run airports agency said.

“With the consequences of travel restrictions, air service connections between cities worldwide collapsed.

“On the day of 2020, we celebrate Civil Aviation Day, the global aviation industry is in a crisis yet hoping for a soon recovery.”

Sri Lanka’s Colombo Airport was one of the few that were open at the height of the pandemic in the second quarter of 2020 and SriLankan Airlines was one of the last airlines to stop scheduled flights.

SriLankan continued to fly cargo and relief flights.

Qatar Airlines continued to fly to Colombo.

In 2020 kicked off the construction of a new terminal that will expand capacity at Colombo which was operating beyond its designed capacity until 2020.

The Wright brothers of the US are considered to have made the first sustained, controlled, powered heavier-than-air manned flight in at Kill Devil Hills in North Carolina.

Commercial services were done by lighter-than-air craft, or airships developed by Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin of Germany in 1910.

The services were halted by the start of the First World War. At the beginning of the War aircraft mostly single engine wood and fabric machines used for reconnaissance by the armies of the UK, France and Germany.

By the end of World War I, purpose built fighters and twin-engined bombers had been developed and engine technology had also advanced.

British aviators John Alcock and Arthur Brown made the first non-stop Atlantic crossing, carrying some airmail using a Vickers Vimy bomber which was built too late for active service.

By the end of the Second World War all metal monoplanes, strategic bombers with extended endurance were developed and the jet engine was independently developed in the UK and Germany.

War surplus bombers, operated by former pilots led to an explosion of civilian commercial aviation, while the jet airliners transformed the industry.

The following key milestones of the Aviation Industry of Sri Lanka were provided by the AASL.


Governor of Ceylon negotiated to extend the airmail service between the United Kingdom and India via Ceylon


State Council of Ceylon decided to construct an aerodrome at Ratmalana


The aerodrome at Ratmalana was completed and the Aero Club of Ceylon provides the public with flight opportunities.


First Air Navigation Regulations were published. The first three aircraft bearing the Ceylon registration mark entered into the aircraft register


The Ratmalana Airport was inaugurated on the 28 of February. The Director of Public Works was appointed as the Director of Civil Aviation.


An emergency landing was conducted in Puttalam


With the outbreak of World War II, the Royal Air Force takes control of functions of the Ratmalana Airport.


The United Kingdom Australia – ‘LANCASTRIAN’ service commenced operations via Ceylon


The Department of Civil Aviation was established under the Ministry of Transport. The Ratmalana aerodrome was taken over from the Royal Air Force for civil flying.


Air Ceylon – the National Carrier was set up under the Ministry of Communication and Works and inaugurates international flights from Colombo to Madras via Jaffna.


Sri Lanka was appointed as a member of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).


The Navigation Act No. 15 of 1950 was promulgated. An Academy to train pilots was established


Air Ceylon entered into an agreement with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines


International flight operations were shifted to Katunayake.


The development program of Katunayake Airport commenced. The RAF Runway was extended from 1,840 to 3,350 meters with assistance from the Government of Canada. Terminal Building was constructed to hold 150,000 passengers per year.


Inauguration of Bandaranaike International Airport, Katunayake. (BIA


Construction of a larger terminal building, apron and taxiway took place.


Inauguration of the National Carrier – Air Lanka. Airports Authority Act of 1979 promulgated and the Airport Authority was established.


The Airport Authority took over civil airport operations from the Department of Civil Aviation.


The Government decided to establish a Government-owned company to handle civil aviation in Sri Lanka.


Amendments were made to the Air Navigation Act.


Establishment of the Airport and Aviation Services (Sri Lanka) (Private) Limited- AASL to oversee the overall development, maintenance, administration, and service delivery of the airports


A development program was launched to construct a new runway, passenger terminal building, cargo complex, control tower, and navigation services and maintenance complex.


The development program was completed and the new runway and passenger terminal building was commissioned with an annual handling capacity of 3.5 million passengers.


The Air Cargo Village was inaugurated.


AirLanka was re-branded as “SriLankan Airlines” following its partial acquisition by Dubai based Emirates Group.


A completely new outlook was commissioned for the Airport in November with the construction of a finger pier with eight aerobridges, an expanded terminal, lounges, and other facilities.


AASL celebrated 25 years Silver Jubilee


The Civil Aviation Act No.14 of 2010 was passed in the Parliament. The Civil Aviation Authority of Sri Lanka issued the certificate and license to AASL to operate the Civil aerodromes in Sri Lanka as the statutory service provider.


The civil aviation sector completed 100 years of service beginning with the first plane performing its successful flight at the Racecourse Grounds in Colombo on 7 December 1912.


Sri Lanka’s second International airport MRIA at Hambantota was declared open on 18 March.


With a view to promoting MRIA, the Government declared full “Open Skies Policy” at MRIA with all nine freedoms of air available to airlines.


The runway was resurfaced at BIA and was upgraded to accommodate A380 by expanding the width of the runway from 60 meters to 75 meters


The Batticaloa Airport was reopened for civil operations in March.


AASL expanded its International airport operation network to the northern part of Sri Lanka by reopening the Jaffna International Airport (JIA).

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