ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, July 29, 2007
Vol. 42 - No 09

Mihin Air: Key posts vacant

By Rohan Abeywardena

The controversial Government funded budget airline Mihin Air has run into more controversy as it has so far failed to fill some key posts since the sudden departure of its financial advisor Senaka Chandrasekera and head of operations Capt. Nihal Goonewardene early this month.

Mr. Chandrasekera, a retired head of finance at SriLankan Airlines. had been the man who had done much of the spade work in preparing Mihin Air’s painstaking three year business plan, primarily based on which, the previous Civil Aviation Director General had granted the Air Operator Certificate and the Airline Licence to Mihin Lanka (Pvt.) Ltd.

The Sunday Times reliably learns that one of the chief reasons for Mr. Chandrasekera’s and Capt. Goonewardene’s sudden exit from the Company was due to serious differences of opinion with its Chief Executive Officer Sajin de Vass Gunawardena, whom critics charged was proceeding way ahead of the Company business plan filed with the Civil Aviation Authority of Sri Lanka.

A copy of the “MIHIN LANKA INTERNATIONAL PASSENGER AIRLINE OPERATION THREE YEAR BUSINESS PLAN” obtained by us reveal that it should begin operation with just one Airbus A320-200 aircraft taken on wet lease during its first six months of operation and its daily flights should be limited to Trivandrum, Trichi, and Dubai during this period. Its second aircraft was to be introduced from the seventh month and flights to Bangkok and Male were to begin from the second year and with the introduction of a third aircraft.

But the airline, which began its flight operations in March, has already introduced its second aircraft and also added the new destinations ahead of schedule. The result has been it was forced to offer fantastically low cut price tickets to places like Trichi, Trivandrum and Bangkok to attract passengers. The return ticket to Trivandrum and Trichi priced at Rs.8000, also includes a baggage allowance of 100 kilos and the return ticket to Bangkok priced at Rs.14,900 includes a baggage allowance of 75kilos.

According to aviation sources the airline is now making arrangements to go for a third much larger aircraft by leasing an Airbus A-310. Mr. Vass Gunawardena was in Turkey for more than a week in this regard and he returned to his Colombo office at the BMICH only early this week.

Questioned in this regard Civil Aviation acting Director Parakrama Dissanayake said though he cannot readily recall seeing the amended plans of Mihin Air, the Company would have filed amended business plans accordingly with his office.

A veteran pilot of SriLankan Airlines, Capt. Goonewardene held three key posts at Mihin Air prior to his resignation-namely Director Operations, Manager Flight Operations and Manager Training. One of the key stipulations laid down to the Company by the Civil Aviation DG, in granting it the licence, was that such a “Nominated Post Holder shall not be removed from his/her respective post without alternate arrangements acceptable to this office in advance.”

But the Civil Aviation DG assured that the Company was now in the process of filling the top posts that fell vacant with the departure of Capt. Goonewardene. It is learnt that a retired SriLankan Tri-Star pilot Capt. Errol Cramer, who has been serving the CAA as the Senior Flight Operations Inspector is now likely to join Mihin Air as its Senior Manager Flight Operations.

As in the previous week all senior managers of Mihin Air whom we contacted refused to speak to us on the grounds that they were not authorized to do so and directed us to contact their CEO, but we were unable to speak to him as he had again gone abroad and is expected back tomorrow.

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.