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Renovated Batticaloa airport opens

The extended runway at the Batticaloa airport. Picture by Sivam Packiyanathan, Batticaloa Special Correspondent.

The renovated Batticaloa Airport was opened for civilian air traffic yesterday enabling direct air travel to the East.

President Maithripala Sirisena opened the renovated Batticaloa Airport on July 16 last year, which was used only for military operations until then.

The extended runway and passenger terminal at the Sri Lanka Air Force Station were opened by landing a SLAF aircraft with the President on board.

However, operating civilian aircraft got delayed until all necessary facilities were developed to handle passengers.

The first civilian aircraft landed at the airport yesterday with Transport and Civil Aviation Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva, Deputy Minister Ashok Abeysinghe, Ministry Secretary G.S. Vithanage and several other politicians and government officials onboard.

Minister Nimal Siripala De Silva said plans were afoot to construct several other domestic airports which had the capability of handling 60 seater domestic flights.

The Minister said that the airport was renovated at a cost of Rs.1400 million.

He further said that this airport has a runway with a length of 1066 metres and a width of 46 metres. The runway is covered with a Bitumen Layer.

“The opening of the renovated airport for civilian air traffic could boost tourism to the East as tourists disembarking from the Katunayake International Airport would be able to take a domestic flight to go to the East,” he added.

The airport is located 1.7 kilometres from the Batticaloa town in the Seththukuda area. The distance from Katunayake to the Batticaloa airport is 206 kilometres and from Ratmalana airport 222 kilometres.

Several private operators have already voiced interest in operating domestic flights to the airport from Ratmalana. A private operator has already commenced two daily flights from Colombo to Batticaloa.

“The government also plans to establish an aviation School within the premises of the airport and when fully operational, it will create a large number of jobs for youth in the area,” Minister de Silva added.

State Resettlement and Rehabilitation Minister M.L.A.M. Hisbullah, Batticaloa District Parliamentarians G. Srinesan, S. Yogesweran and Alisahir Mowlana, Batticaloa Government Agent M. Uthayakumar, Civil Aviation Director General H.M.C. Nimalsiri and Transport Minstry Secretary G.S. Vithanage were present.