Strategic development plan for domestic airports

The domestic airports at Ratmalana, Batticaloa, Palaly, Sigiriya, Koggala and Digana are to be developed as profitable airports by linking them into a streamlined Internal Air Traffic Service. A strategic plan for the development of these internal airports was discussed at a meeting held at the Transport Ministry auditorium chaired by Transport and Civil Aviation Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva yesterday.

It was observed at this meeting that already 25 acres of land from the Ratmalana Airport premises has been obtained from the Sri Lanka Air Force which is using it to develop infrastructure facilities required for an internal air service. The Transport Ministry has agreed to pay Rs. 750 million to the Air Force for the development of infrastructure on this land, which would include aircraft hangars and terminals. Already the Ministry had paid an advance of Rs 250 million of the agreed amount to the Airforce.

Air Force officials who attended the meeting said steps would be taken to hand over this strip of land after the improvements, to Airport and Aviation Services Ltd, by December 31.Minister de Silva directed officials to develop Ratmalana Airport and its infrastructure to service medium-size passenger planes and private jets. It was also disclosed that plans have been formulated to purchase new technological equipment for handling flight operations, building a new signal tower and an aircraft hangar.

The Minister also advised officials to call open bids to establish a private jet operations terminal at competitive prices. He also said urgent repairs would be performed to the Sigiriya Airport runway and the Koggala Airport runway.

It was also decided that development work on the Palaly Airport should not be handed over to a foreign country at any cost. Since the Civil Aviation Authority and Sri Lanka Tourism had agreed to fund the upgrade of the Palaly Airport runway to facilitate the landing of A320 aircraft, the Minister said immediate steps should be taken to commence development work after doing a feasibility study.

The Minister said that since the previous government started developing an airport at Digana and abandoned the work halfway after spending Rs. 197 million on it, a committee of intellectuals should be asked to study the project and report on its viability.

Following a discussion on problems confronting flight training schools, the Minister said obsolete flight regulations should be amended to streamline flight schools to enable them to compete with other flight schools in the region.

Noting that the heavy influx of tourists necessitated the development of domestic airline services, the Minister advised officials to commence domestic airport development initiatives during this year.