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Sunday, 19 July 2015





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CAA reviews plans for Mattala Airport

The former regime defying the views of aviation experts went ahead stubbornly with the construction of the second international airport in the South, which has failed to produce any results except being a burden to the economy.

Shibly Aziz

Experts said the need was only to construct an alternative runway with a small terminal.

Chairman, Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), Shibly Aziz (former Attorney General) said the CAA is reviewing plans for the Mattala Airport as it felt the decision to build an international commercial airport in the South did not appear to have been correctly taken.

There was no passenger base in the South to site a second international airport.

He said there was no need at all to build a second international airport within a small country such as Sri Lanka.

There would be a need for a second airport in the country in another 15 to 20 years when the traffic growth would increase exponentially.

The Mattala Airport was built to expand the local aviation industry and implemented as an eco-friendley project. The project was estimated to cost around US$210 million covering an extent of around 2,000 hectares. It was built to be compatible with the latest Airbus A 380 aircraft and was designed according to recommendations of the International Civil Aviation Organisation.

Aziz said all what was in the planning stage was for an alternative runway and a small terminal to handle a aircraft which could not make use of Katunayake due to exigent circumstances such as adverse weather and runway obstructions.

This would have been only in an emergency as happens in the aviation sector. An alternative runway and airport would save the national carrier a fair amount of fuel by not carrying excess fuel to reach a point in India which would have been the alternate airport when there is such a problem.

Apart from having to carry less fuel, more passengers and cargo could be accommodated in the national carrier’s flights out of or into Katunayake.

The need was, therefore, only to have an alternative runway with a small terminal, Aziz said. However, the planners of the Mattala airport went beyond the original scope of an alternative runway and today we have an airport with facilities which unfortunately cannot be made use of in the short term. Neither international airlines nor SriLankan Airlines or Mihin Air have shown interest in using the Mattala airport.

The airport is virtually unused. Nontheless substantial repayments have to be met on a regular basis to defray the cost of construction and maintenance of the airport.

SriLankan Airlines stopped flights to the Mattala airport which was named after former President Mahinda Rajapksa.According to SriLankan Airline sources operating flights via Mattala airport was a drain on the already heavily debt-laden carrier.

Aziz said even aircraft in distress or having problems chose Katunayake for emergency purposes rather than Mattala.

We should aggressively work out plans in the short and medium term to develop interest in Mattala as soon as possible.

Inquiries have been made from the relevant stakeholders including Airport and Aviation Services Limited regarding the viability of developing Mattala for aviation related projects and such industries which will enable the use of Mattala with its facilities, he said.

Some of the projects which have been discussed are, building state-of-the-art maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facilities to have international carriers using Mattala as a mini hub for international carriage of passengers, a cargo hub, make use of the cargo storage facilities and cold rooms (which are now unused and empty), have flying schools and training facilities for pilots and as a transit point for cargo for reputed courier services.

The plans are being discussed but no progress can be made until the General Elections are over as investors would prefer a stable and investor-friendly government which could decide on investor proposals based on the interests of the country and not on any other considerations, the CAA Chairman said.The Airport and Aviation Services Limited which is in charge of all airports has also made elaborate plans on these lines.

“We are reviewing the plans and marketing them locally and internationally,” Aziz said.


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