Jaffna passengers question safety of air travel

[TamilNet, Saturday, 29 December 2007, 01:50 GMT]
Increasing number of technical problems that have plagued air crafts belonging to the local air lines that fly between Jaffna and Colombo, has raised concern among Jaffna travellers about the safety of their flights, sources in Jaffna said. Jaffna residents and few foreigners patronizing Expo Air and Aero Lanka have expressed fears of ageing unsafe air crafts that are over-used without adequate maintenance.

Currently, each carrier operates three flights per day between Jaffna and Colombo, each using just one air craft.

On 13 December a passenger flight with 50 Tamil passengers from Ratmalana airport to Jaffna, unable to land at Palaali due to technical failure, had to fly back to Colombo. It was later revealed that the aircraft had technical issues with the landing gear.

But, Ratmalana airport authorities refused landing permission to the aircraft and diverted it to Katunayake International Airport. The authorities at Katunayaka, fearing it might crash land, asked the pilots of the Expo Air aircraft to return to Ratmalana. The pilots finally managed to safely land the aircraft at Ratmalana airport.

In a second incident this Thursday, an aircraft operated by Aero Lanka flying from Palaly with passengers bound for Ratmalana lost control during landing and slid off from runway narrowly avoiding a major accident.

Despite these warning signs, the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) has and has consistently denied permission to other local carriers who are willing to offer their services, and have authorized the two operating airlines to continue servicing the route, civilian sources said.

With A9 closed, and the scheduled three Trincomalee to KKS trips by ship rarely run to schedule, Jaffna passengers are forced to use air-travel.

Besides the cost of Rs 10,000 per trip, air travellers face long wait at Palaly for intensive checking prior to boarding the 45 minutes flight to Colombo.


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