Flying is a daring experience and it stays with you even if you never do it again. Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) made headway in joining its friends in the sky 100 years back when it took off on December 7, 1912. Since then flying out of Colombo has never been a dream but an experience that people live and continue re-live.
The date is marked with two Frenchmen Georges Verminck and Marc Pourpre who managed to take off in Bleriot aircraft, fly to the Sri Lankan skies and land safely.
For most Sri Lankans (then Ceylonese) who queued up in the early days to buy a ticket to simply take a look at the wonder machine capable of flying, dreams began to come to life.
Sir John Kotelawala, then Transport and Works Minister promoted private flying through the Aero Club of Ceylon in the 1930s.
The first airstrip at Ratmalana that still stands today was opened in 1938 alongside the inauguration of the first direct regular airmail service under the British Empire Air Mail Scheme (AMS) from Sri Lanka, documents released from the Civil Aviation Authority in Colombo stated. Today the same airport is run by the Sri Lankan Air Force.
World War II created space for the establishment of new airstrips at Katunayake, Vavuniya, Puttalam, Trincomalee and Palaly in addition to a sea plane base at Koggala for military aircraft operational activity. Ratmalana was used for overseas bound commercial flights until the early 1960s.