Compiled by:  Gp Capt Kumar Kirinde, SLAF (Retd)


On 19th June, N.S. Makalanda made history when he hired an aeroplane and made a spectacular aerial offering of jasmine flowers and scented perfume over the newly renovated Ruwanweliseya stupa, during the unveiling of its crystal pinnacle. The flight which departed from Ratmalana airport, and flew for 170 minutes made history as the first ever Ceylon’s ‘Flower Drop” flight of Ceylon/Sri Lanka.  (Source: Ashi Fernando)


The first airline in the country with entirely domestic operations was established when Upali Wijewardene founded UPALI AIR (but scheduled services began almost a decade later).

Upali logo in the 1960s
Pics courtesy: Ashi Fernando


The first Boeing 747 ‘jumbo jet’ to arrive in Ceylon/Sri Lanka landed at Colombo International Airport on Sunday, November 7. The 747-200, registered D-ABYF, was operated by Condor, a German charter airline then partially-owned by Lufthansa.

Both photos below are believed to have been taken on that historic occasion. The second would appear to depict passengers boarding for the return sector from Colombo to Frankfurt.

Colombo, Sri Lanka, 1971. A Boeing 747 is unloaded after landing from the airport personnel in Colombo and prepared with the compulsory service work for the next flight. In the 70s, the 747 was the largest passenger aircraft in the world.
Pic: https://www.istockphoto.com/photo/boeing-747-colombo-airport via Google Images
Pic: https://www.alamy.com/ via Dhamseth Pallawela collection

(Some aviation enthusiasts may wonder why the Condor 747-200 has only three upper-deck windows on each side, a feature that was usually but not always only seen on the ‘first-generation’ 747-100 and often cited, unreliably, as a key recognition feature of the ‘Dash 100’. The short answer is that, depending on customer specifications based on use of the upper-deck as a lounge instead of a passenger cabin with ‘conventional’ seating, some 747-200s, as in the Condor example, were also built with only three windows on each side ‘upstairs’.)


Upali Aviation commenced operations with a Bell 206 LongRanger helicopter.

Pic courtesy: Ashi Fernando


In July, the first private civil flying training facility in Sri Lanka was launched. The school which was registered as ‘Air Taxi Ltd’ a subsidiary of the Maharaja Organization of Sri Lanka and based at the domestic airfield, Colombo Airport Ratmalana. Training of pilots began on pilots on the Cessna 206, Cessna 177, Cessna 152 and the Piper PA 38.

Above article is Based on direction received from Roger Thiedeman, aviation historian and writer