JAFFNA | Thursday October 17 , 2019 | NewsLanka | by Claude Gunasekera | The Jaffna International Airport (JIA) was declared open for international operations today October 17, as the third international airport in Sri Lanka by adding a new chapter to the aviation industry of Sri Lanka. The Northern part of the island being linked to the international air transport network is undoubtedly a national achievement. This fully-fledged international airport will meet the travel needs of the people of the North, minimizing their travel time on road while maximizing their productivity and quality of life.
Maithripala Sirisena, President and Ranil Wickremesinghe, Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, Taranjit Singh Sandhu, High Commissioner of India to Sri Lanka, Arjuna Ranatunga, Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation, Dr Suren Raghavan, Governor of Northern Province along with other dignitaries graced the inaugural event.
Marking inauguration of the Jaffna International Airport, Alliance Air (the subsidiary of Air India) launched a flight to the airport with top officials of Indian Aviation Authority and Alliance Air on the 17th.
The geo-strategic location of the new International airport will give Sri Lanka the opportunity to capture a portion of the rapidly growing travel market in the South Indian sectors which has an annual growth of 12%. The Jaffna International Airport will also boost the tourism industry of Sri Lanka attracting international tourists to experience the unique and authentic subculture of the Northern Province.
Alliance Air is scheduled to commence direct flight operations from Chennai to Jaffna International Airport from the first week of November 2019.
Jaffna International Airport
Jaffna the Northern International Airport is in the town of Palaly (Kankasanthurai) in Jaffna District, Northern Province, Sri Lanka. Located approximately 16 km (9.9 mi) north of the city of Jaffna, the airport was originally built by the Royal Air Force during World War II and later served as the country’s second international airport before being taken over by the Sri Lanka Air Force. International or the domestic Passengers could experience splendid hospitality with a Sri Lankan smile and hassle free clearance through the airport terminal.
Palaly Air Field
History of the Palaly air field runs in to 1940s. This air field was constructed as a military facility by the Royal Air Force in support of Allied operations during the WWII. It is recorded that a number of RAF Squadrons were operating out of the Palaly Air Field during the period. There were several RAF Squadrons including No.160, No.203, No.292 and No.354 Squadron in Palaly at the time.
After the WWII, the Air Field was abandoned by the RAF and its management was taken over by the Department of Civil Aviation as the only airfield available in Jaffna peninsula. At the time of taking over by the Dept of Civil Aviation, the air field had a control tower building and two aircraft hangars built by the RAF which survive with the Sri Lanka Air Force even to date, though some with modifications. It is recorded that the two hangars were utilized even by the Ports Authority for storage of commodities at the time. Further, Officers of the Dept of Civil Aviation occupied RAF abandoned tower building and another small building presently called the ‘Fire Billet’.
The inaugural flight by the Air Ceylon on 10 December 1947 was conducted from Ratmalana to Madras via Kankasanturai (Palaly) and the airport facilitated domestic flights to Ratmalana and international flights to South India. These regional flights were smoothly carried out until the escalation of violence in 1970s. In 1976, a small Sri Lanka Air Force contingent was stationed at Palaly with the reduction of civil flights and in order to monitor illegal immigration/smuggling and to carryout maritime surveillance using Bell-47 helicopters.The Air Force presence was gradually expanded to meet the requirements created due to increased illegal activities across Northern waters. The site became an Air Field Unit of the Air Force in January 1982 and during the terror conflict, Palaly served as the only major facility in the Northern theater for the Sri Lankan military to keep its air supply corridors intact. Due to same reason the facility became as an important strategic location for military forces in Jaffna peninsula and the terrorists made many desperate attempts to neutralize its operations. The air field was well protected throughout the 30 year long conflict and since the conclusion of the war its good use for civil operations also was explored. As a military airfield it successfully supported both military and civil air operations in and out of the Jaffna peninsula all these years until its rebirth as an international airport.