Celebrating of Ten years since the first Commercial Flight with 108 Passengers from USA to Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (18th March 2013 – 2023)
(Main Picture – First Commercial Flight to Mattala)
First commercial flight to Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport which was opened up for commercial operations exactly 10 years ago on the 18th Mar 2013 arriving from USA with 108 passengers. The specialty about this flight was it carried Sri Lankan/American dual citizens from Various parts of USA including, Professionals, businessman and diplomats on board an A340-200 aircraft arrived from various parts of the USA.
First commercial flight to Mattala was originated from 8 Emirates gateways in the USA to Dubai, finally connecting to a Sri Lankan Airlines flight connecting via Dubai.
The necessity of having another international airport emerged as vital by beginning of the 21st century and subsequently a new plot of land in Mattala area had been identified as feasible. Then the construction of the second international airport for Sri Lanka commenced at Mattala in November 2009. This was the brief story of getting our country the second international airport on 18th March 2013, nine years ago.
The chief organizer of this historic flight was Mr. Upul Dharmadasa, the present Chairman, of Hilton & Former Chairman of Civil Aviation Authority of Sri Lanka. We got the opportunity to talk to Mr. Dharmadasa on this commemorating date.
Dear Mr. Dharmadasa, Can you please explain us the importance of this historic flight organized by you,
We as the Sri Lankans living in USA, we wanted to make our mark to honor this event because generally an opening up a new airport is a very rare occasion. For a country like ours, this could be the only opportunity we get to see in our entire life span. Addition of an international airport to any country is a very significant event as it not only enhances the value but gives additional benefit to the country concerned as well. Therefore we were determined that we should arrive to Mattala from the first flight operating as its first Commercial Flight.
Proud members of this first flight were those who are living in various parts of USA. There could be tremendous work behind arranging this flight. Can you please explain us more about your effort?
Absolutely. Those who participated this flight were living across USA like cities New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, Fort Worth, Chicago and Houston from various states of USA. They all gathered to Dubai, UAE on 16th March 2013 to be a part of this historic event as we thought it would be convenient to initiate this important historic flight from Dubai, UAE. The next step of the plan was to land the flight at Mattala International Airport at the scheduled time subsequent to the inauguration ceremony.
Our team managed to make the reservation of Airbus A340-200 aircraft belongs to our national carrier, SriLankan Airlines and then took off from Dubai to Mattala. It is more satisfied and feel contented seeing the present level of the second international airport of Sri Lanka has reached expanding its wings across various spectrums and making significant contribution to the economy of our mother country.
(Mr. Upul Dharmadasa with the Captain of the first flight to Mattala)
Mr. Dharmadasa, We all are witness how significant the Mattala airport is as the second international airport during the pandemic of Covid -19
It was a heartfelt moment of bringing back the stranded Sri Lankan from Wuhan, China during the very beginning period of the Covid-19 Pandemic. This flight landed at Mattala airport. After that flight, there were numerous flights operated to Mattala airport carrying stranded Sri Lankans from almost all corners of the world while adhering to all of the Covid-19 national guidelines. Actually Mattala airport was used dedicatedly for this task for a considerable time period taking the responsibility of a nation.
Not only that, we cannot forget the fact that the usage of this airport as an intermediary point of crew transferring to international vessels operating on the International Vessel Line located few miles away the coastal line of the airport. We were able to establish the Mattala airport as one of the most appropriate intermediary point to change the crew members of international vessels. With all these efforts we were able to connect the fields of sea transportation and air transportation. First loop of this magnificent effort is the Mattala International Airport.
As a veteran of having international experience and exposure of nearly five decades, what kind of strategic actions you wish to take to develop the airport further
Many initiatives have already been taken to move forward the airport to the next level. Many more flexible procedures and convenient systems have been adopted by the airport nd the government especially for the betterment of the passengers and the flights arriving to Mattala airport. It has been already decided to continue this atmosphere for next two years. Many new airlines have already carried out initial discussions to make Mattala as one of the destinations of their network.
Mattala airport can be further developed as a crew transferring point. Since the highway land transport network has already been interconnected with the Mattala airport, I believe that the tourists and commercial flights could be attracted very easily. And it is possible to induce the Mattala airport as an export connecting point of agriculture and other export crops.
(Members of the first flight at Mattala Airport)
I need to remind the support I received from former ambassador of USA, Mr. Jaliya Wickramasuriya, then H.E the Ambassador to USA, Mr. Dilan Ariyawnsa, General Sales Agent of Sri Lankan Airlines USA and Canada, and then Chairman of airport & Aviation Services Ltd when I organized this flight nine years ago. Mr. Jaliya Wickramasuriya supported in making diplomatic work while Mr. Dilan Ariyawnsa looked after arranging the flight.
Major General (Rtd) G. A. Candrasiri
Present Chairman, Airport & Aviation Services (Sri Lanka) Limited
Today it is a strong strength for the aviation industry that Mattala International Airport has had developed in a way it can give services comfortably to any type of aircraft available in the world at present. We realized this fact during the time of Covi-19 pandemic.
When Badaranayake International Airport serves as the key international airport of Sri Lanka, Mattala Airport made its active contribution in silent during the last 9 years for the aviation industry. Many foreign airlines are in the process of negotiations to make the Mattala airport as one of their destinations.
Former Chairman – AASL
I felt contented as a diplomat of the government of Sri Lanka of the decisions taken by the government to build up the second international airport when the necessity arose in parallel to the progress made by the aviation industry of Sri Lanka. Accordingly we as the diplomats of Sri Lanka stationed USA, supported to the team of Sri Lankans living in USA coming forward in arranging first commercial flight to Mattala International Airport
We realized how valuable of having a full serviced second international airport during the difficult time of Covid-19 pandemic. I think it is a very good initiative to introduce and implement new strategies of networking with the rest of the world through various means for example of providing crew transferring facilities. I believe this airport can be further developed with entangling the Southern highway, the land transport system which interconnects the Bandaranayake International Airport and Mattala International Airport. I take this opportunity to express my best wishes.
Field of air transport is developing day by day. It supports with the features it encompasses like safety, efficiency and rapidity. The recent example is its contribution made by the air transport service providers during the Covid-19 pandemic by keeping continuous and steady supply network for the emergency services.
(When Mattala Airport opened)