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.
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
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
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.