Business Times

Sri Lanka’s skies are looking up

Six airplane and six helicopter operators are awaiting Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) sanction to operate their flights with the local aviation industry ready to capitalise on the peace dividend, according to a CAA official.

“There has been an increasing demand for both airplanes and helicopter operations domestically by individuals as well as entities,” H.M.C. Nimalsiri, Director General and CEO, CAA told the Business Times.

He said Macksons Holdings, Upali Aviation and Asian Aviation are amongst the firms which have applied for an Air Operator Certificate (AOC) to the CAA to start domestic aero plane operations. He added that Breeze Liner, Global Vectr Helicorp Ltd, I.W.S. Holdings, Senok Aviation, All Island Aviation and Blue Lotus Aviation (Pvt) Ltd are amongst those awaiting AOCs for helicopter operations. “All these applications are at various stages,” Mr. Nimalsiri added.

He said that before the Independence Day on February 4, SriLankan Airlines plans to launch its float-plane operations. “It’ll take off from the Beira Lake to Yudhaganawa (near Buttala)," he said, adding that another party is also seeking sanction for float-plane operations. He said presently 12 sites are approved for these operations - namely Randenigala, Polgolla, Nilaveli, Beruwela, Victoria and Koggala.

He added that now that the CAA Act has been passed, the regulator is armed with more teeth. “With this in place, the CAA is empowered to uplift the industry,” he said, explaining that the new Act has stipulated many regulatory provisions and strengthened the Minister’s powers. “Now we have rules in place for safety programmes, the Minister is empowered to make rules pertaining to a number of matters and the Director General can issue implementing standards for the industry,” he explained.

Mr Nimalsiri said this year the CAA will focus on simplifying the aircraft importation process, solving infrastructure issues of the operators, establishing hangars at domestic airports, etc, reviewing various charges levied on the operators, considering granting concession to operators investing in domestic aviation and also concessions to start up foreign carriers for limited period, while reviewing airspace restrictions are also on the cards this year. Mr. Nimalsiri noted that CAA will also enhance public awareness in civil aviation while promoting aviation activities (air shows, etc) this year.

He added that the International Civil Aviation Organisation audit which was completed last October found that the Sri Lankan Aviation standards are much above those of the region. “With this recommendation the CAA has set the ground for this industry to be on top,” he said.

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