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In ancient times Ussangoda in Ambanlantota was a legendary landing place of Ravana, the evil king of Hindu mythology who piloted his special peacock chariot across the skies. That is the ancient evidence for air port in Hambantota.
1911 :
    • Aviation begin in Sri Lanka and Bleriot Monoplane, which was the first aircraft to arrive in SL
    • Oster attempted the first ever public flight in his monoplane. Taking off from the racecourse he managed to reach a height of 40 feet but crashed. He was not seriously hurt, and suffered only minor injuries. This was not officially recorded as the first flight in Ceylon as the take-off and landing were not controlled.


    1. Type : Bleriot monoplane (named after the famous French Aviatior Louis Bleriot)
    2. Operator : Francz Oster ( who imported the first aero plane to Sri Lanka)
    3. Year built : 1909
    4. Crew : 1 fatalities / 1 on board
    5. Passengers : 0 fatalities / 0 on board
    6. Total : 1 fatalities / 1 on board
    7.  Location : Racecourses Colombo (Sri Lanka)
    8. Phase : Takeoff
    9. Nature : Public demonstration
    10. Flight : Test flight
1912 :
    • Oster crashed the same monoplane during a trial flight in preparation for a public demonstration. Oster suffered a shoulder dislocation, cuts & bruises. The plane was badly damaged.
1934 :
    • The state Council of Ceylon made a decision to construct an aerodrome within reach of the capital city of Colombo and decided on Ratmalana as the best site.
    • During the Second World War Ratmalana was used as an Royal Air Force base, with No 30 Squadron flying Hawker Hurricanes from there against Japanese Navy aircraft.QEA flew civilianized Consolidated B – 24 Liberator and Avro Lancastrian aero planes there form Perth, Western Australia, on what was at the time the world’s longest non-stop air route. The flight continued after the war an intermediate re- fueling stop at the Cocos Island.
1935 :
    • SL’s first aerodrome in Ratmalana on 27 th November 1935
    • On 25 November, Mr.H.Tyndale – Biscoe, an instructor of the Madras flying club flew his fragile – looking, “Puss Moth” into Ratmalana at 0940 hrs.
1936 :
    • Civil aircraft registry institute established
1938 :
    • Ratmalana was opened in 1938 with a grass landing area 600 yards square.
    • The formal opening of the Ratmalana Airport took place on 28th February 1938. An airmail flight too was arranged on the same day. A Waco biplane of Tata Airlines took off from Ratmalana carrying mail, thereby officially linking Ceylon to the Empire Airmail Service.
1939 :
    • Three stories terminal building with hangers and workshop facilities provided in 1939 and in the same year RAF took over the airfield in 1939
1940 :
    • Bandaranaike International Airport formally known as Colombo Airport was built by British in the mid 1940’s. During the time airport was called Royal Air Force Katunayaka (RAF).
1942 :
    • Sri Lanka was the best bet and ‘that too if possible the southernmost tip to take maximum advantage to minimize the distance to the Australian coast. Hence, the mapmakers took their protractors and their slide rulers out and their calculations, Koggala to Perth long and dangerous, but possible.
1943 :
    • The first flight came from Perth and landed in Koggala on the 30 March 1943 under the command of Captain Russell Tapp. The last flight was on 18th July 1945. The aero planes carried three passengers, and 60 kg of mail
    • Ceylon took a giant step into international aviation. It was started “Qantas Empire Airways Indian Ocean Service “. It was a regular service during 1943 – 1946 operated Catalina Flying boats taking off from Koggala Lake.
1945 :
    • The catalinas flew the route until replaced by Liberators in mid1945. Unfortunately, under their lend– lease terms, the aircraft could not be re-sold for civilian use, and all five were towed to sea and scuttled between November 1945 and March 1946. Qantas acquired 14 Catalinas from post – war disposals, using seven for spares and seven for passenger service.
1946 :
    • The major improvements carried out at the airfield after the DCA took control of RML airport, the runway was extended to 2000 years and it could accommodate aircraft of 75,000 Ibs by 1948 and Maintenance and improvements to RMS was done by DPW
    • Department of Civil aviation took the responsibility of
    • Administration and enforcement of Air Navigation regulations
    • Provisions of Air Navigation Facilities and services
    • Development and maintenance of aerodromes
    • Operation of the national carrier, air Ceylon
    • Operation of Flying schools
1947 :
  • With Independence a foregone conclusion, Koteawala sought to raise the commercial air service. First, he appointed L.S.B. (Leslie) Perera to head the newly – created Department of Civil Aviation, and M.Chandrasoma , an experience civil servant , as Perera ‘s Secretary.
  • The national carrier began as Ceylon Airways and Later the name was changed to Air Ceylon and expanded its service around the world. Service to London using BOAC Comet 4s were begun in 1962 with DC3s being used on internal routes.
  • The Dakotas also demonstrated their worth by operating emergency relief flights during the floods of August 1947.
  • In June 1974, at the suggestion of John Kotelawala, Viharamaha Devi flew to London to collect a valuable cargo of electoral registers for the coming elections
  • On Wednesday 10 December, 1947, all this preparatory flying climaxed with the inaugural scheduled flight of the new Airline, Air Ceylon. With Capt. Peter Fernando at the controls and a complement of 16 passengers.
  • The airport began as a Royal Air Force airfield in 1944 during the Second World War, RAF Station Negombo.
 1948 :
    • Sri Lanka becomes a signatory to the Chicargo convention.
    • History was created again when the first aircraft with an all Ceylonese crew to land in Australia arrived in Sydney with a party of Navy personnel.
    • After the independence the Royal Ceylon Air Force formed and they expanded their air power by establishing the headquarters at Katunayaka.
    • The same year Capt. Rex De Silva commanded a special flight to Burma (now Myanmar) taking the sacred Sanchi Buddha relics for exposition in Rangoon, Mandalay and Akyab.
    • Tata Air lines commenced opetations to RMA.
1949 :
    • Air Ceylon achieved genuine international, long-haul status when it entered into a partnership with Australian National Airways (ANA).
    • The Douglas DC-3 aircraft crashed on its landing phase by Ceylon Airways at Jaffna Trichinopoly flight on 21.12.1949.
    • Ampari was opened for civil traffic.
    • Defence authorities permitted use of koggala for civil flights.
1950 :
    • The British Government seconded Air Commodore Graham Clerke Bladon to set up the RCyAF on 05th May 1950.
    • Ampari was closed down due to serious damage caused by flood.
    • Air Ceylon associated with Australian airways.
1952 :       
    • China Bay (CBY) airfield was open to civil aviation by the defence.
    • National carrier was separated from the DCA.
    • Air Ceylon Act was introduced.
    • Air Ceylon was established as a public co-operation.
    • Air Navigation Act of No. 15 of 1950 introduced (same as the British ANO).
    • Two types seven and one type six bungalows were constructed for DCA staff in KKS.
1953 :
    • After the association with ANA ceased in 1953, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines took over the Australian airline’s share in Air Ceylon.
1954 :
  • Current ICAO Aircraft Registration Prefixes (4R-VP-C, CY-Sri lanka)
  • Upon independence in 1948 the registration prefix was changed to CY-XXX. In 1954 a new registration sequence, 4R-XXX, was adopted and this is still used.
1955 :
    • Air Navigation Regulations (ANR) published in the Gazzette No. 10,812 on 01st July 1955 and came into effect on 01st October 1955.
1956 :
    • With a Lockheed Constellation leased from KLM, Air Ceylon resumed international flights on what became known as the “Sapphire Service”, with Amsterdam a new destination.
    • ANR of 1955 amended by Gazzette No. 10,943 on 15th June 1956 making provision for complying with ICAO SARPS whilst eliminating typos in the original regulations.
1957 :
    • Gal Oya Development Board carried out development at Amparai airfield and reopened for regular flights.
    • When SWRD Bandaranaike removed all the British Military airfields from Ceylon (Sri Lanka), the airfield was handed over to the Royal Ceylon Air Force (RCyAF) and renamed Katunayake. Part of it still remains an Air Force airfield.
1958 :
    • The Constellation was dubbed Mahadevi, reviving the tradition of regal names. KLM updated the aircraft in 1958 with a larger version, the Super Constellation, which was named Soma Devi.
    • 24th October 1958 British Government seconded Air Commodore Graham Clerke Barker became the RCyAF’s second Commander in 1958 at the age of 48.
1959 :        
    • Anuradhapura airfield constructed by Gal Oya Development Board.
1960 :
    • Anuradhapura airfield construction was completed.
    • Soma Devi in turn gave way to a more modern Electra propjet, also supplied by KLM.
    • Site for construction of Weerawila was selected.
1961 :
    • The Indian Airlines; Vickers 768D Viscount A/C touched down about one third down the runway of Colombo – Ratmalana on 15.11.1961.
1962 :
    • Air Ceylon parted company with the Dutch airline and turned to the British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) for support on its overseas operations.
    • Air Vice Marshal Ekanayake Rohan Amarasekara come in to power and Air Commodore John Lindsay Barker gave up work on 12th November 1962.

1963 :

    • Development program of Katunayake Airport commences. The RAF Runway is extended from 1840 to 3350 meters with assistance from the government of Canada. Terminal building is constructed to held 150,000 passengers per year.
1964 :
    • Air Ceylon took delivery of its first, very own turboprop, a hawker Siddeley (Avro) HS 748.
    • Hawker Siddeley HS_748 turbo propellers were introduced.
    • Anil Munasinghe, the Cabinet Minister of Communications, started the building of a new international airport to replace Ratmalana, with Canadian aid.
    • Government approvel was granted for the Site for construction of Weerawila.
1965 :
    • KIA underwent a major expansion program with Canadian assistance and completed.
1967 :
  • It was followed in 1967 by another turboprop, a Nord 262 from France. Unfortunately, the Nord proved unsuitable for local conditions, and was disposed of two years later.
  • Ratmalana airport was completed in 1967, and Air Ceylon, the national carrier, began international operations from it using a Hawker Siddeley Trident and a leased British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) British Aircraft Corporation (BAC) VC-10. The airport was also a Trans World Airlines (TWA) hb for a short time.
1968 :
    • New Runway length is 11,050ft and KIA new terminal building was opened on 5th August 1968.
    • Construction of a larger terminal building, apron and taxiway takes place in BIA.
    • Colombo International Airport Regulations of 1968 were gazette and brought into operations on 25th April 1969.

1969 :

  • Air Ceylon made an even bolder leap into the aeronautical big time in 1969, purchasing a Hawker Siddely Trident jetliner. The Trident served an expanded regional network which ultimately stretched to Sharjah in the Persian Gulf.
  • Air Ceylon bought a Trident 1E jet opening up medium-haul routes.
  • WWII made the Royal air force to took the Koggala lake demarcate the water runway, fix the wind sock and prepare it to accept the long flying seaplanes.
    1. ANR’s first schedule was amended by gazette no 14861 of 4th July 1969.
1970 :
    • Air Vice Marshal Ekanayake Rohan Amarasekera gave up work on 31st Dec 1970
    • The Katunayake airport was named Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA), after former Prime Minister SWRD Bandaranaike.
1972 :         
    • Air Ceylon leased a Douglas DC-8 from des Union Transport Aeriens for its European services, which also included Paris. This aircraft was replaced in 1977 by another unit of the same make purchased by the airlines. Also leased was a Boeing 720 jet.
1974 :
    • The aircraft, on a haj flight from Surabaya to Jeddah (Via Katunayake) was cleared to 2000ft after reporting between 7000-6000 ft when 14 miles out. The aircraft later crashed into a mountain. This was resulted 191 facilities. (Aircraft Type: DC-8/Operator : Martin Air)
1975 :
    • DCA Flying School was closed and Private Flying Schools were permitted.
    • Sri Lanka Aerodromes (Zoning) Regulations of 1975 were promulgated and applied to Aerodromes at Ratmalana, Katunayake and Kankasanturai.
1978 :
    • Bankruptcy the airlines was closed down by the Government of J.R.Jayawardene
    • The pilot and first officer were carrying out pre-departure checks when loud explosion in the mid-section of the fuselage caused a fire. (LTTE bomb attack)
    • The DC-8, on a haj flight to Surabaya, crashed into a account plantation and this was resulted 183 fatalities. (Operaor : Loftleider/Location : Colombo-Bandaranaike IAP)
1979 :
    • Air Ceylon was liquidated and Air Lanka was established as Liability Company.
    • Airport Authority act No.46 of 1979 promulgated and the Airport Authority is established.
    • Airports Authority was established for responsibility for development and operation of Civil aerodromes was entrusted to the Authority.
    • Inauguration of the National Carrier-Air Lanka.

1980 :

  • The Airport Authority takes over civil airport operations from the Department of Civil Aviation
1981 :          
    • The Government decides to establish a government owned company to handle civil aviation in Sri Lanka.
1982 :
    • The Air Navigation Act No. 15 of 1950 amended by Act No. 02 of 1982 (for the formation of AASL)
    • Hijack of the aircraft in Flight by a Sri Lankan on 30th June 1982.
    • Offences against aircraft Act No.24 of 1982.
    • The enabling law (Offences against aircraft Act) was certified by the Speaker on 26th July 1982 and Sepala Ekanayake was charged under that Act.
1983 :
    • Establishment of the Airport and Aviation Services (Sri Lanka) Ltd. (AASL), to overseas the overall development, maintenance, administration and service delivery of the airports.
    • The Air Navigation Act No.15 of 1950 amended by Sri Lanka Air Force under emergency regulations.
    • Airports & Airports Services was established for development and operation of civil aerodromes, air navigation facilities and services.
1984 :
    • Development program launched to construct a new runway, passenger terminal building, cargo complex control tower and navigation services and maintenance complex.
1986 :
    • New runway of 3350 X 150 ft was commissioned at KIA.
    • During the boarding of the plane a bomb, hidden in the aircraft ‘Fly Away Kit’ exploded and 21 people were killed on the plane which included 13 foreigners (Operator : Air Lanka/Type Lockhead L-1011 Tri Star 100)
1987 :
    • The Air navigation Act No.15 of 1950 amended by Act No. 14 of 1987
1987 & 1988 :
    • Development programme is completed and the new runway and passenger terminal building is commissioned with and annual handling capacity of 3.5 Mn. Passengers.
1988 :
    • The Air Navigation Act. No. 15 of 1950 amended.
1990 :
    • Carriage of freight by air was liberalized.
1991 :
    • The SkyCabs (Pvt) Ltd. started its international air cargo service.
1992 :
    • The designation of DCA (Director of Civil Aviation) was elevated to DGCA (Director General of Civil Aviation.
    • The Air Cargo Village at BIA was inaugurated.
    • The “Airlanka” purchased its first Airbus A320.
1993 :
    • The Expo Aviation started international air cargo service.
1994 :
    • The Lion Air started a regular internal service.
1995 :
    • Katunayake International Airport (KIA) was re-named as Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA), Colombo.
    • Operation of domestic civil flights was suspended on 13th September 1995.
1997 :
    • All licenses issued to domestic civil operations were cancelled in 1997, consequent to an ICAO audit findings and such operations were advised to apply for re-certification. DGCA was instructed by the government not to permit any new operator or operations without the approval of the Cabinet.
    • ICAO conducted an assessment on the Safety Oversight Capabilities of the DGCA and highlighted a series of deficiencies which precluded the DGCA from discharging the state’s obligations. The president of ICAO wrote to the Minister requesting him to honour   the state’s obligations.
1998 :
    • Government accepted the ICAO proposal for replacement of Air Navigation Act. No: 15 of 1950 and drafting of a new Civil Aviation Bill commenced with the help of an Air Law Professor from McGill University, Montreal.
    • The Sri Lankan flag carrier, “Air Lanka” was privatized following the establishment of a strategic partnership with Dubai based United Arab Emirates Airline. The total share allocation was 40% and the management control of the airline was given to Emirates.
1999 :
    • The name Air Lanka was changed to SriLankan Airlines in 1999. The livery too was given a new look, with a new logo that identified the new company
2000 :
    • ICAO visited Sri Lanka again for an audit and the ICAO president expressed concerns for the delay in implementing the new laws. The Minister reassured the ICAO president for early measures.
    • An Antonov 12BK operated by cargo carrier Sky Cabs crashed due to lack of fuel. It was crashed into two houses in Kandirana and killed four people on the ground and six out of the eight on board.
2001 :
    • The Liaberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam launched a suicide attack at Colombo Bandaranaike Airport that destroyed 26 aircrafts. Four aircrafts were written off, including the Airbus A340 – 300 (4R-ADD), Airbus A330 – 200 (4R-ALE or 4R-ALF), Airbus A320 – 200 (4R-ABA) and Airbus A330 – 200 (4R-ALE or 4R-ALF) in the assault.
2002 :
    • Civil Aviation Authority of Sri Lanka was established.
    • Drafting of the Technical Law proceeded.
    • Expo Aviation was permitted to operate internal regular passenger service on 1st of June 2002.
2003 :
    • BIA (Bandaranaike International Airport) Phase II Development Project was commenced.
    • Sri Lanka Balloon Festival was launched in March of 2003, just one year after hot air ballooning was introduced. The event attracted experienced balloonists from the United Kingdom, France, United Stated, Austria and Switzerland. That was the first international aviation event in the country.
2004 :
    • Deccan Aviation Lanka was incorporated in July 2004, as Sri Lanka’s premier private helicopter operator. The partnership between Deccan Aviation India and the Favourite Group of Sri Lanka gave birth to a new era in private aviation.
2005 :
    • On 4th August 2005 Sri Lanka and Singapore signed an ‘Open Skies’ agreement, removing all restrictions on passenger and cargo services. Airlines may operate on any route between Sri Lanka and Singapore and beyond, with no limits on frequency.
2006 :
    • Civil Aviation Bill was gazette.
    • The Sri Lankan government laid the foundation stone for a new airport to be built at Weerawila, in the Southern Province.
    • Deccan Aviation, which operates the low-cost carrier Air Deccan, started its international operations out of Sri Lanka.
2007 :
    • Mihin Air, the budget airline was established in April 2007 and was created by the Sri Lankan government to operate services to India and the Middle East.
    • On 7 May 2007 the Sri Lankan Government decided to shift some military aviation operations out of the space adjoining the airport to SLAF Higurakhoda, thus paving the way for more civilian operations.
    • March 25th at 00:45 the Tamil Tigers bombed the Sri Lanka Air Force base adjoining the international airport. Three Air Force personnel were killed and 16 injured when light aircraft dropped two bombs, although no aircraft were damaged. Passengers already on aircraft were disembarked and led to a shelter, while others trying to reach the airport were turned away and approach roads closed. The airport was temporarily shut down following the incident, but normal flights resumed at 03:30.
2009 :              
    • Once the EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) which was conducted by Central Environment Authority, found the location to be unsuitable, the proposed Weerawila International Airport was shifted to Mattala. In year 2009, His Excellency the President Mahinda Rajapaksha placed the foundation stone for the Hambantota International Airport (HIA) at Mattala.
2010 :
    • As part of the airport development program, a passenger train service was launched between the Airport and Colombo Secretariat Station; in June 2010 also unveiled plans to extend the Colombo – Katunayake airport express train to Ratmalana.
2013 :
    • His Excellency the President Mahinda Rajapaksha opened the Mattala Rajapaksha International Airport (MRIA) at Hambantota.