Rs.1 bln facelift for Palaly airport

Sri Lankan authorities are currently looking at the possibility of developing the Palaly airport with state assistance amounting to about Rs.1 billion.

The airport had been under the scanner by the Indian government which had expressed interest in developing, viewing it as a regional airport as well.

Director General Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) H.M.C. Nimalsiri told the Business Times that the local authorities were to go ahead with the development of the Palaly airport as a civilian airport depending on the availability of funds.

He said they would request for an allocation of Rs.1 billion in the 2018 budget due in November.

The CAA had written to the Indian officials to obtain their response on the development of the said airport but had not yet received any communiqué in this regard.
Discussions between the Indians and the Aviation Ministry were held last year regarding the development of the Northern airstrip which is currently run by the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF).

India has been interested in operating direct flight services between Jaffna and some southern Indian states like Madurai or Tiruchi in Tamil Nadu or Thiruvanathapuram in Kerala even with the present facilities available at this facility.

This project came in for criticism from some of the Tamil leaders like Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran who raised his objections with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to India funding the development of this airport.

Under the renovation plan, the airfield will be converted from the existing 1000 metre runway to a 1200 metre runway.

At present there is one terminal that has a capacity of about 200 people which is expected to be assessed for development, Mr. Nimalsiri explained.

Currently the SLAF operates Hercules C130 and Antonov An32 transport aircraft and Helitours run Chinese Xian MA60 type aircraft, SLAF spokesman Group Captain Gihan Seneviratne stated.

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