Batticaloa with its famous lagoons, beaches and sites of historical importance is one of the most sought after destinations for tourists both foreign and local. In order to help promote the influx of tourists into the region by providing safer and expeditious travel, instead of letting them spend long hours on roads, Sri Lankan government has launched a project to develop internal air travel.
In 2012 to mark Sri Lanka’s commemoration of 100 years in aviation the renovation of the Batticaloa airport was started by laying the foundation stone for the construction of a terminal building.
The commencement of the project planned for an extension and overlay to the existing runway, fixing of runway lights and construction of a new terminal building as well as the apron; the area where aircraft are parked. As the Batticaloa runway is locked at either ends between the lagoon, it could not be extended beyond 1,560 meters, which is adequate for operation of 60 seater aircraft. Runway expansion work was done initially by the Road Development Authority (60%) and the balance part was completed by Sri Lanka Air Force. The total budget allocated for the reconstruction of the runway, apron and terminal building which is Rs.1,400 million was borne by the General Treasury.
The airport after renovation was declared open by His Excellency the President on 10th July 2016. However, formal opening of the airport of civil operations were deferred as the airport had to conform to some of civil aviation requirements, which are now fulfilled.
With a view to giving the airport, a civilian outlook and making it more friendly and attractive to air commuters and in accordance with the provisions made in the Civil Aviation Authority of Sri Lanka Act No. 34 of 2002, the Government took a decision to vest the Batticaloa airport in the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) with effect from May 31, 2016. At the same time, the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation appointed M/s Airport and Aviation Services (Sri Lanka) Ltd., which is identified as the Statutory Service Provider as the Service Provider to operate the Batticaloa Airport as a civil airport.
The airport has a total land space of 145.2 hectares and the portion thereof amounting to 75.9 hectares has been retained by Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) for continued operation of its air base. The remaining portion of land has been cordoned off with a fence demarcating the civil and military areas clearly. Northern side of the runways is fully cleared for civil aviation operations. Separate access has been provided for civilians to enter the airport without the need of undergoing the strict security screening process that is usually performed by military when allowing a civilian to enter any military base.
Batticaloa Airport was opened in almost 60 years ago on 17th November 1958 and was administered by Department of Civil Aviation initially. Army Engineers of the Sri Lanka Army had helped to make the airport operable and it was open to all members of the public.
About ten years later of its opening, the internal scheduled flights of Air Ceylon, which had been operated between the Ratmalana and Jaffna airports were extended to cover Batticaloa airport as well. Air Ceylon used to operate daily flights to Batticaloa via Gal Oya (Ampara) using Nord (French made) aircraft which had 29 seats. The flight between Ratmalana and Batticaloa took only 75 minutes and was in great demand.
The airport is located on the island of Thimilathiu in the eastern coast of Sri Lanka at a distance of 0.94 nautical miles (1.7 km) southwest of Batticaloa town at an elevation of 3 meters (10 ft). Batticaloa airport had a runway oriented in the direction of 0600/2400 with a bitumen surface of a length and width of 1,066 by 46 metres (3,497 ft × 151 ft) respectively. Air distance between Katunayake and Batticaloa is only 206 km and Batticaloa and Ratmalana is 220 km.
The Batticaloa airport is located 0.94 nautical miles (1.7 km) southwest of the town of Batticaloa. It resides at an elevation of 3 metres (10 ft) and has one runway designated 06/24 with a bitumen surface measuring 1,066 by 46 metres (3,497 ft × 151 ft). The airport did not undergo any major rehabilitation since construction until 2012 and therefore was in a dilapidated condition which was unsafe for civil air transport operations.
Presently the Batticaloa airport would function between sunrise to sunset daily as a fully civil airport which allow aircraft operations under visual meteorological conditions under the control and supervision of the Airports and Aviation Services (Pvt) Ltd. SLAF will not get involved in the operation of the airport other than handing their own flights. Air Traffic Control at the Batticaloa airport would be provided by trained and licensed personnel to provide Air Traffic Control services in accordance with the international standards. Commercial aircraft are allowed to perform self-handing with a view to enhancing the efficiency and bringing down the cost of air travel.
Civil Aviation Authority of Sri Lanka has issued an Aerodrome Licence to Airport and Aviation Services Ltd in accordance with the Air Navigation Regulations of 1955 to operate the airport as a civil airport after ascertaining their compliance with the applicable international standards. Batticaloa. Aerodrome Operations Manual which has been prepared by AASL specifying all arrangements and procedures (including normal, abnormal and emergency procedures) that the airport shall conform to in the conduct of its commercial operations, has been approved by the CAASL.
Airport and its immediate environs have been declared to be a protected area by the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation in terms of an order published in the gazette under the Civil Aviation Act and any high rise construction within the protected area will have to conform to the zoning instructions issued by the Director General of Civil Aviation Mr. Mr. H.M.C.Nimalsiri
for preservation of effective use of airspace for safe operation of aircraft to the airport.
The Government encourages establishment of flying schools and related industries centering the airport aiming at resurrection and up keeping of social life and conditions of living in the area. The Government has understood the need of having Scheduled Air Services between domestic airports for sustained promotion of internal air transport and in this context any airline which commences scheduled flights to Batticaloa airport would be given free landing and parking for a period three months from date of opening of the airport for civil use. Currently Cinnamon Air is operating twice daily scheduled flights to Batticaloa and a few more airlines have indicated willingness to commence scheduled flights to Batticaloa airport.
Many thanks to Mr. H.M.C.Nimalsiri Director General of Civil Aviation & Chief Executive Officer Civil aviation authority of Sri Lanka for providing the above information.
( We also thank Mr. Prabath Kularatne of Civil aviation authority for all the help provided)