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Hingurakgoda Airport upgrade into an international civil airport begins

By: Staff Writer

April 29, Colombo (LNW): The development of the Hingurakgoda Airport into an international civil airport has commenced, with the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) being tasked with extending its existing runway, according to the Ministry of Ports, Shipping, and Aviation.

Sri Lankan aviation stands at a pivotal moment as it considers the transformation of Hingurakgoda Airport, also known as Minneriya Airport, from a primarily Air Force facility to a fully-fledged international civilian airport.

During the 2024 Budget speech, President Ranil Wickremesinghe as the Minister of Finance announced that Rs. 2 billion would be allocated for the project.

This initiative, underlined by a substantial budget of Rs.2 billion (about US $ 6.5 million), has enthused a national debate. It’s not merely a matter of financial allocation but also financial economics with extensive consequences that could reshape Sri Lanka’s aviation landscape and its position in regional connectivity.

Minister of Ports, Shipping, and Aviation Nimal Siripala de Silva revealed that the development of the Hingurakgoda Airport into an international civil airport had begun and that the SLAF had already commenced the preliminary work.

“The preliminary work will be done by the Air Force, which has been assigned to construct the extension of the current runway,” he said.

However, he refused to provide a timeline for the transformation of the airport into an international civil airport, claiming that it was too premature to specify a timeline.

The Minister further revealed that the feasibility study – carried out by Airport and Aviation Services (Sri Lanka) Ltd. (AASL) – had been completed but said he was unaware of the contents of the report.

In announcing the Government’s decision last year to upgrade the Hingurakgoda Airport as an international civil airport, de Silva pointed out it would facilitate convenient visits to Polonnaruwa, Anuradhapura, Sigiriya, and Dambulla.

A field study will be conducted pertaining to improving and developing the airport for the landing and takeoff of A330 aircraft.

Extending the current 2,287 m runway up to 2,800 m, construction of an access way to the airport runway, setting up an air navigation system, and construction of an Air Traffic Control (ATC) tower and a passenger terminal at the airport were decided as essential measures,” he added, when announcing the decision.

The government’s plan for Hingurakgoda Airport is marked by ambitious upgrades, including runway extensions, advanced air navigation systems, a new passenger terminal and a state-of-the-art air traffic control (ATC) tower, which will require a massive budget beyond the proposed allocation.

These developments aim to elevate the airport from its current military utilisation towards serving a growing international civil aviation demand. However, this move raises crucial questions about its necessity and practicality, especially in a nation with five international airports.

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