German airline to invest in Hambantota International airport

A leading German airline is exploring the possibility at investing in the Hambantota International Airport (HIA). The airline is also seeking a working relationship with SriLankan Airlines. An official from Ministry of Civil Aviation told Daily News Business that the German airline is contemplating in setting up a Mechanical Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility at the HIA.

The main aim of this is to attract regional airlines to HIA to obtain mandatory routine safety certifications which are regulatory to the aviation filed. The MRO facility would bring tremendous revenue to the country and it would also help other related small industries in the area. A official of the airline has also visited the HIA.

In addition, two gulf budget carries, flydubai and Air Arabia are likely to have flights landing in HIA while several other major airlines such as Emirates are seriously looking at frequenting HIA.

Chairman SriLankan Airlines, Nishantha Wickramasinghe said that most of their European flights would land in HIA giving passengers the option to visit the Deep South and the Eastern province and fly back from Colombo.

He also said that plans are afoot to have an extension arm of their engineering wing at HIA and that they would soon sign up to get a second A330 simulator for pilot training.

In addition Mihin will also operate flights to HIA. It would also provide passengers the opportunity to take internal flights between the two destinations.

When contacted Chairman Airport and Aviation Services(AASL), Prasanna Wickramasuriya said that 80% of the runway has now been completed while over 60% of the airport traffic control tower, fire station, cargo and passenger terminal have been completed. “The work is on schedule and we will finish work by the end of the year,” he said.

Nearly 800 hectares would be developed under the first phase of the project and the HIA would also have facilities to land 10 planes at a time, including Airbus A-380.The work on the proposed airport hotel too is in progress.

He also said that they would be having a free economic zone and request for proposals (RFPs) for this would close on April 30. “We have received a very good response from both local and foreign investors,” he said. These include proposals to start cargo operations, duty free, catering, setting up pilot training schools and other aviation related investment zones.

The HIA project would generate over 1,500 direct employment opportunities and over 3,000 indirect employments upon completion.

Shirajiv SIRIMANE writes for The Daily News — shirajiv@yahoo.com

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