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-   -   The sad story of GA in Sri Lanka (https://www.pprune.org/south-asia-far-east/374128-sad-story-ga-sri-lanka.html)

Lankaweflyingporak 16th May 2009 06:28

The sad story of GA in Sri Lanka
In 1950 Ceylon promulgated the Air Navigation Act “ To give effect to certain international conventions relating to Air Navigation and carriage by air, to make provision for the general regulation and control of air navigation and for purposes connected therewith or incidental thereto” This involved the licensing of men, machines and Airlines. Regulations in accordance with international practice were also put in place. The Minister of Transport or Aviation as the case may be, was the sole authority. In section 21 of the Air Navigation Act all power was delegated to the Director of Civil Aviation. “The Minister may for the purpose of Civil Aviation, generally or specially delegate the Director of Civil Aviation any powers (other than powers to make regulations or orders), duties and functions conferred or imposed upon or vested in the Ministry by or under this act”
In accordance with the above, the Minister “owned” the airspace and the Director of Civil Aviation was empowered to act on his behalf. Then in 1954 along came the Air Force Act. There were two specific tasks allocated to the air force by the Governor General. (a) In the defence of Ceylon in the time of war, whether apprehended or (b) For the prevention or suppression of any rebellion, insurrection or other civil disturbance in Ceylon. There was absolutely no conflict in the two acts as the Minister of Transport (or Civil Aviation) was empowered to grant exemptions from the operation of the (Air Navigation) act.

As history reflects things went on smoothly for many years with Civil Aviation and the Royal Ceylon Air Force working with each other with no conflict. The RCyAF was a ceremonial air force. Sometimes during general strikes the airmen worked equipment in the Colombo Harbour. They took part in flood relief. Some times during civil disturbances they flew their noisy Jet Provosts over the city as a show of strength. I remember how the air force put out a fire at Adam’s Peak. During this time some air force pilots were even granted exemptions from the Commercial Pilots’ Licence (CPL) based on an air force rating called the ‘Master Green’. The air force had loaned a D H Chipmunk to the Civil Flying School at Ratmalana. Some of the top instructors of the air force got involved in civil pilot training as well The Hiller the first helicopter acquired by Ceylon and extensively used by Sir John Kotalawala was given to the air force. However in 1968/69 when the Bandaranaike International Airport was opened at Katunayake and Civil Aviation Department‘s Air Traffic Controllers took over operations, there were overtures made to the then Government by the RCyAF to take over the Air Traffic control at BIA. They had been controlling the old Katunayake airport before. Then came the April 1971 JVP Insurgency after which the RCyAF ended up with extra men and equipment. In ‘peace time’, under the leadership of AVM Pathman (Paddy) Mendis the air force got involved in “Heletours” and Air Maldives , activities not strictly in their line of business. Not only that, while the only civil flying training school was struggling to train fledgling pilots with just two airworthy aircraft, the RCyAF using a French line of credit had purchased six Cessna 150 aircraft and four Cessna 337 Skymaster aircraft. These were essentially civil aircraft. The deal was so secretive that even the local agents, De Soysa and Company didn’t know till a handsome commission was reflected in their bank account! Many civil pilots at that time thought that these should have ended up with the Dept of Civil Aviation School. But it was not to be. By the early seventies the granting of exemptions to the air force pilots were stopped by the Director of Civil Aviation and they were required to pass the UK CPL exam like all other civil pilots.
Gradually the ceremonial air force became a fighting force and a force to be reckoned with. After 1977, General aviation (GA) was privatized. The GA companies could not compete with the air force. Bit by bit the air force began to restrict the air space over Sri Lanka to General Aviation operators. This state of affairs killed pleasure flying. This was all done in the name of “Security”. For the gentlemen of the air force, a safe aircraft was an aircraft on ground! The main reason was that both the Civil Aviation Dept and the air force came under the same Ministry, the Ministry of Defence. It was far easier for the Chief of the Air Force to speak directly with the then President (as she was the Commander –in- Chief), than for Director General of Civil Aviation who had to go through a longer chain of command. All the air force commanders over rode the wide powers that the DG of Civil Aviation had, with no legal power what so ever. While the Commander of the SLAF was a pilot, the DG was not. Until recent times, the Civil Aviation Authority Sri Lanka (CAASL) did not have a single pilot in its administration. Therefore any lie or half truth that was communicated to the incumbent President was believed. The sad fact was that even with all these restrictions on General Aviation, when the push came to a shove, the Tigers terrorists had the sky to themselves. Let us not kid ourselves by thinking that the gunners did a good job by shooting down the Tiger aircraft that came over Colombo on the last occasion. Because they were on a suicide mission, the Tiger aircraft were low and slow and thereby compromised their vulnerability. The question remains as to why the enemy could not be intercepted well before they became a threat to humanity? Please don’t get me wrong, the air force has done a wonderful job in carrying out precision bombing of identified ground targets. Unfortunately the same cannot be said of relatively slow moving aerial targets at night because the SLAF lacked the proper equipment and practice. But that is another story.
The Aviation Ministry in coordination with the Ministry of Defence, did try to implement the “Ruhunu open skies” policy to liberalise the operation of GA flying, south of Katukurunda in a clearly defined area both vertically and horizontally. This scheme however is an utter failure due to the sheer incompetence and intransigence of the SLAF. Unrealistic demands were being made from civil operators, in airspace they have no right to administrate. This was partly due to a weak CAASL administration as well.
What is attempted in this short discourse is to show that the air force has been gradually infringing into areas of civil aviation which they are not legally qualified to handle. With the end of the fighting in the north, this writer believes that history will repeat itself in peace time and the air force will drive the last few nails into general aviation’s coffin. Unless we say that enough is enough as the tail should not wag the dog.

moderate 7th Jun 2009 12:11

The aviators of Sri Lanka should be thankful for that discourse. It may be a bit too steep for todays' bunch to grapple with (you know what I mean?), nevertheless the history lesson was important.

However I would like to differ on some of the views stated;

SLAF matters

1. In the opinion of this writer, the author of that valued discourse seems to be somewhat biased of the SLAF and its doings. Sure, each and every action of theirs had not been to the liking of some (thank goodness for that orelse the LTTE would have been a happy bunch even today). You claim that ".....for the SLAF, the only safe aircraft is the one on ground" and then go on to say that the SLAF couldn't get the Tiger aircraft for a long time (something to that effect). I think the answer to the former lies with the second comment! I think we are all aware by now that the SLAF was working in the air, minus that all important 'Detect/ Intercept' capability. So it is then obvious that no detection can be made from the air (it was a case of looking for a phantom - and a tiny one at that).

2. DGCA matters

As you had quite rightly said, the CAA is run by non flyers. It has always been that and it's time to change. Most such authorities (if not all) have flyers who would understand the subject better. A whole bunch of ATC guys have made it their habitat these days. Short term thinking by the politicians had allowed square pegs in round holes. As we cringe on the killing of civil aviation in this country, the fault may be lying there. One again, the SLAF cannot be blamed for taking action to keep all other aircraft on ground at a time when the threat was great. That was the SLAF Commanders responsibility (like the Navy had to restrict ships and boats). A little imagination (even before 9/11) could give a Pilot many options had his intentions been less than honorable!

But I certainly would like to thank you for that piece of information on certain aspects of aviation history in SL. Let's hope that we could use todays momentum - gained after winning the war - by helping the administrators to think differently in AIR MATTERS too.

All aviators in Sri Lanka and the Country too needs some fresh thinking along with some bold action to resuscitate this dying industry.

Lankaweflyingporak 6th Jul 2009 06:56

Dear Moderate,
It is always refreshing to read a post such as yours which is written with malice to none. I suppose if I was in the Commander’s shoes, I may have acted in the same manner. It is left to CAASL to put their “foot down with a firm hand” to quote Capt. George Ferdinand who was the Manager Flight Operations for Air Ceylon and Air Lanka.
We now hear that the Defence Ministry wants to operate an Airline run by the SLAF between Colombo and KKS. The problem is that State aircraft (military, customs and police) do not come under the ICAO Chicago Convention. The reason given for such an operation is that the private operators are charging exorbitant rates. Surely the answer lies in providing more competition. One redeeming factor is that we have a ‘good guy’ in our Attorney General who knows how the ICAO works and has been a Director of the CAASL before.
Some time ago at a meeting with MR (not Milinda) regarding Mehin Lanka, the then DGCAA pointed out that something was not in accordance with international conventions to which MR retorted “Who is Civil Aviation………? I am Civil Aviation! “
The Civil Aviation Bill which will restore the lost powers back to CAASL, has got stuck in Parliament again. The hangar door talk is that the Deputy Minister of Aviation, AASL and the Unions are against it. So is the Commander of the SLAF. The fear is that if we disregard the ICAO Conventions we will end up a ‘Pariah State’ unable to operate anywhere except the SARC nations. The ICAO audit that was supposed to be this year has been postponed, due to non compliance by CAASL. What a sad state of affairs!

wetdrops 7th Jul 2009 10:18

3 excellent posts!! Indeed General Aviation in Sri Lanka has suffered due to unsuitable/incompetent authority at CAASL. This issue has to be put right, if aviation in this country is to prosper.

We need suitably qualified Aviators (ex or current), allocated to the proper positions at CAASL. We need active decision makers who understand the requirements of aviation in this country and will act according to the need of the hour.

Politics aside, if this basic requirement can be established, Srilankan Airlines, Mihin Lanka, the Airforce and General Aviation will indeed prosper leaps and bounds!!

The time is right but will the right decisions be taken??

L1011 7th Jul 2009 11:35

We need a political class that realizes it is better to relinquish control and let the pie grow bigger, instead of trying to micro-manage everything through cronyism in order to increase their portion of the current size of pie.

Sadly the only thing that has grown bigger is the number of "pi-dogs".

moderate 11th Jul 2009 09:33

I thank you for those kind comments dear LFPorak, anything less would have been grossly unfair for such a good discourse. Let's discuss this further and widen its scope with a brainstorm....before the nasties get onboard!

Wouldn't it be better for us (todays Aviators of SL with better International exposure) to consider the possibilities of opening a line of communication with the Ministry of Aviation to enlighten ..........any suggestion that their wings would be clipped if SL is blacklisted by ICAO would send shivers down their silly spines and would make them act faster than lightening.

There are a few in the GOSL who wish to learn from the pro's but have no access to them. By opening up a course of discussion and gradually showing them that they may not be knowing it all..........very soon they may have a team of professional advisers, even without their knowing it.
Has to be subtle as there are a few political vagabonds 'advising' them today..........

Quoting REGS and ANR from 'outside the circle' is of no use these days as such things are not understood nor given its due place ( "I am Civil Aviation...." says it all). The discussion has to be initiated by us as it would not come from them due to the 'vested interests' blocking it. Slowly but surely we would be able to remove the cancer.......hopefully.

As for the new Air Navigation Act, we should be careful in accepting any kind of new legislature unless it is properly vetted by a team of professionals who know what they are doing. Even the UK CAA still runs on the old ACT but with amendments where required. We should not be supporting a 'new' piece of legis that would tip us from the pan to the fire, especially when it is structured by the present bunch of CAA types who are looking for higher revenue even if it means killing the golden goose.

My twocents worth..............a brainstorming session on this subject may open up even better avenues.......

justiceman 14th Jul 2009 16:40

Is it true President has given direct orders to take 8 Ex Airforce guys to the Airline. Or the the Hora pusa CP 320 doing an underhand deal to take them in to establish a mini Air Force to show off his colors

icom 14th Jul 2009 17:48

Sky Cabs
Hi what happened to sky cabs and Capt S de Silva, they had a couple of c150's a c177 and an aztec, used to be at ratmalana, had a flying school trained a few people, used to come and fly when in Colombo also some outfit had a 206 as well. all good fun used to be a couple of brit guys hanging around enjoying GA in Sri-lanka?:ok: I read that skycabs got some dodgy outfit in to fly freight, garments and veg and they f##ked up and crashed(forget that eastern europe s**t) was that their downfal?l

moderate 15th Jul 2009 04:35

Hi Guys, shall we keep our focus on the post as it's important to all aviators? Chaps who need other types of info could open new thread? No offense meant. Safe Flying.

Lankaweflyingporak 15th Jul 2009 18:33

It was Dr. Tony Kern who said that many airlines recruit trainee pilots who have specialized before they have generalized! Certainly a specialist, Air Force Fighter/Bomber pilot should not sit on the left hand seat of an A320 and go in command immediately.
If you watched the SLAF fighters going on their missions, in the recent past, you would have seen some of them taking off down wind (with the afterburners on). This sort of action may not be acceptable in the Airlines. Yes, rehabilitation is required not only to the LTTE operatives in the IDP camps, but also to all soldiers, sailors and gentlemen of the Air Force who took part in the war. Their mind set will have to be changed with good training and that cannot be done overnight. They have to learn the art and science of Airline flying. This means passing all Civil Exams (CPL and ATPL) and obtaining a stipulated minimum number of sectors, in the right hand seat. They will have to go from the RH seat of an A 320 to the RH seat of the A 330 and then RH seat of a 340 before they go in Command.

If the UL Flight Ops Dept bends backwards to satisfy requests from unenlightened people, and provide short cuts, we might end up like Korean Airlines with a similar safety record for the same reasons.

Was killing GA in SL a master plan of the ‘gentlemen’ of the SLAF?

PS.Three International Sri Lankan Airline Pilots (with over a hundred years of experience, collectively) Volunteered to help the CAASL to get Sri Lankan GA on track. They are still waiting for an appointment with the Minister!

moderate 20th Jul 2009 11:50

Hi LFPora,

The good Doctors comment which you had quoted above is very true in aviation!

As for the Gentlemen of the Air Force coming direct onto the left seat of a A320 is an assumption that needs no comment as it is impossible.....

The Military types coming over to fly the Airlines is natural and is happening all over the world, without issues. They have proved to be as good or even better than the others and would learn the ropes. We should be magnanimous in accepting them into our midst as they had done the dirty work over the years so that we never had to wet our pants.

As for downwind takeoffs..........military flying could certainly more demanding at most times and they would not have the luxuries of headwind takeoffs as we have..........when they are called upon to protect our sovereignty. Hope we agree?

Lankaweflyingporak 21st Jul 2009 13:40

Dear Moderate,
I have no issue with the air force types joining the National airline. In fact it is good resource management. Perhaps we should take a page off Singapore. They have a scheme in place for three types of cadets. The first is for Singaporean cadets after National service at the age of 28. The second is for Malaysian ‘cousins’ at a tender age of 18 and lastly air force pilots whose age may vary from 35yrs to 45yrs. But at the end of the day the safeguards ensure that every thing evens out. (ie) The Malaysian does not steal a march over the National Cadet. The air force pilot need not do as many sectors as an ‘ab initio’ pilots. It works well. The ball is in the court of Flight Ops. That will sort out the dissention in the ranks. As you and I know the local ‘ab initio’ cadets undergo extreme hardships, to pursue their dream, in terms of blood, sweat and tears which is a process of natural selection (survival of the fittest) as compared to the air force cadets who went through Officer Quality Tests and Aptitude Tests. Training at Government’s expense!

moderate 24th Jul 2009 14:02

Perhaps I had 'read' you wrong on your earlier post.........my apologies..... it's good to be in agreement that the country's saviors should have their due place in the National Carrier......... even after being "selected for training at govt's expense" which would have been paid off by an abundant margin through twenty years or more (20++) of service to the country with REAL blood, tears and sweat, compared to bundles of cash from the tender competitors. Perhaps we would agree that ones service to the motherland cannot and should not be side-stepped with cash alone but that's another story.
The system adopted by SIA and explained by you could be a guideline when opening channels for differnt types of candidates but we need to have our own values incooperated in it keeping in mind that we would have the Ex Military types, dual PP holders, Uni grads (who have no slots currently as UL has no ab-initio types) and finally the SL PPT holders. It would be a good idea to give each of them a few slots per batch?

Pround_Lankan 26th Jul 2009 15:09

CAASL shoots down SLAF's commercial flights proposal
The Civil Aviation Authority of Sri Lanka (CAASL) has objected to the move by the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) to operate passenger flights to and from the north without an Air Operations Certificate (AOC). This was stated in a letter sent to the Aviation Ministry last week.
The operation of passenger flights without an AOC is in total violation of International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) procedures, the letter states.
CAASL Chairman, Lal Liyanarachchi told The Sunday Leader that the SLAF has not yet applied for an AOC. He added that a letter has already been sent to the Aviation Ministry Secretary with regard to the issue of the SLAF attempting to operate commercial flights within the country without an AOC.
Liyanarachchi explained that in the aviation industry, even flights operating within a country should comply with international standards.
"An AOC is not any ordinary certificate, it is issued after the authorities are provided with a detailed report on the operations," he said, adding that any commercial airline transporting civilian passengers should have an aviation certificate.
Although the SLAF was engaged in civilian passenger transportation during the war under special circumstances, it could not do so on a commercial basis.
"The SLAF does not require an AOC to transport civilian passengers during the war. Yet, the passengers travelling in the aircraft at the time have to sign a form stating they take full responsibility for whatever happens to them in the course of the flight," Liyanarachchi said.
He pointed out that since the SLAF is now planning on transporting civilian passengers on a commercial basis, it needed to get an AOC.
When asked if the CAASL was informed by the SLAF of its decision to operate civilian passenger flights on a commercial basis, Liyanarachchi said the Authority was unaware of the decision till news appeared in the media.
"No commercial flight could operate without an AOC," he said. He further noted that the authorisation of the Civil Aviation Authority and aircraft insurance were important to operate civilian passenger flights on a commercial basis.
An AOC is an ICAO requirement to ensure the safety of the passengers. Sri Lanka has been a member of the ICAO, agreeing to abide by its codes, since 1948.
Wing Commander Dayal Wijeratne from SLAF's Helitours, which is to handle the passenger flights to the north, was not available for comment.

Lankaweflyingporak 26th Jul 2009 21:30


For the record, the real hero is one of the Sri Lankan pilots (who volunteered to revamp and update the CAASL) He was concerned. So he asked the DG what the story was with regards to the AOC for the SLAF. He was curtly told to go and ask the SLAF! He then threatened to complain to the AG.

The Chicago Convention does not cover three categories. of state aircraft (1) Military (2) Customs and lastly (3) Police. They cannot be granted AOCs.

I believe this pilot’s query started the ball rolling. The CAASL was slow off the mark.. The Nation is full of ‘Yes men.’ This is very refreshing. The Pilot has to remain nameless for obvious reasons!

Pround_Lankan 27th Jul 2009 10:02

the problem
The problem in our country is the high position persons are unqualified and have no idea of the law or anything! that's the big shame...

moderate 27th Jul 2009 10:36

:DThree cheers for the gentleman who had woken up the DG from his deep slumber. Let's hope that he would now START WORKING on many other issues that are piling up.
These days we find the ANR a much violated document due to his inaction. If the bible of the aviators is being violated and the head priest is in ignorance induced slumber.....................who's our saviour???:confused:

Lankaweflyingporak 27th Jul 2009 16:43

Heletours have already opened a booth in BIA. Now do they have an AOC?

I must say that the posters are really nice. But will the poor pax have insurance?

Paddy Mendis started all this in 1972. Just because everyone kept quiet does not make it legal.

CLOMBO 27th Jul 2009 18:06

It must be very difficult for para and lal to object to the air force as they have said yes to srilankan airlines and politician on all subjects.They both must leave so that aviation can prosper.:ooh:

Lankaweflyingporak 28th Jul 2009 02:55

Lal and Para are not aviators and may not be able to stand up to the SLAF. While saying all that, the SLAF will do a good job as they have the technical competance and Govt backing.

Many years ago at a seminar for lawyers organized by Air Lanka, to comemorate 100 years of ICAO, a team of law professors from the McGill University, Canada, declared that it is the mission that dictates whether a flight is Civil or Military. (ie) If a Civil a/c carries military personnel it be comes Military. If a Military a/c carries out an urgent medical mission, it becomes civil! We will have to leave it to the lawyers to decide.

Is 'Heletours' a public company? If so they will have to conform to all the requirments of CAASL introduced by their own man Capt. Ana Jayasinhe. Ana introduced so much paperwork just to show the authorities that the CAASL was in control. Now even to fly a balloon one needs an Ops Manual! It is the same for private importers of a/c. They are shooting themselves in the foot! According to the ANRs, the DG can designate certain a/c as 'Simple types' which need not operate like a private airline.

There is no doubt that Heletours will have to obtain an Air Operator Certificate (AOC). The guys will have to have a few designated a/c whose mechanical status will have to be monitored by CAASL. Amongst other controls, the workshops will have to be examined. The SLAF uniforms will have to go.

But then it will be a one horse race and will kill free enterprise. GA will surly be killed. That was what my original concerns were about.

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