SLAF to commence passenger flights to Jaffna without AOC

[TamilNet, Monday, 27 July 2009, 02:22 GMT]
The Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) said Sunday it would continue to operate domestic passenger flights to and from Colombo and Jaffna despite objection by the Civil Avian Authority of Sri Lanka (CAASL) that it should obtain Air Operations Certificate (AOC) to do so. The flights are scheduled to commence from Monday.

“We (SLAF) have been transporting passengers for a long period even during the war time. So we think it is not required now as we have been given permission by the Ministry of Defence,” Air Force Spokesman Wing Commander Janaka Nanayakkara told Colombo media persons.

He was responding to reports that CAASL has objected to Sri Lanka Air Force operating passenger flights between Jaffna and Colombo.

In a letter to the Aviation Ministry last week, the CAASL said that the operation of passenger flights without an AOC was in violation of International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) procedures.

However, the Air Force Spokesperson said that operating passenger flights by the Air Force between Jaffna and Colombo was totally a domestic issue. “The Sri Lanka Ministry of Defence has given us the green light to do it,” he said.

The SLAF spokesperson also said that earlier anyone who wished to fly to Jaffna or vice-versa had to get permission from the Defence Ministry, but with the new development there would not be any requirement to obtain permission from the ministry. “We have been doing this for a long time. The only new thing is that no one will be required to obtain a ministry approval and they easily can book a seat now,” he added.

The SLAF media spokesman said that if it was a security concern, what the Air Force would have to say is “safety has been assured throughout the journey for every passenger."

He said that there were many inquiries in order to travel between the two destinations even before the commencement of the passenger flights.

Civil society sources in Jaffna speculated that with the war coming to an end, the SLAF may have chosen to engage in passenger transportation to mitigate the over-capacity, and also to tap into the lucrative Jaffna-Colombo passenger market before the demand tapers off when land routes become usable.


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