Sri Lanka’s Hambantota airport to open on 18 March

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Sri Lanka's second international airport is scheduled to begin operations on 18 March.

The construction of the Hambantota International Airport in Mattala, southeast Sri Lanka, is 99% completed. It will open for full operations on 18 March, says the country's ministry of defence and urban development.

The airport will have an initial capacity of 1 million passengers a year. The second stage of its development will begin in 2013, raising its capacity to 6 million by 2018.

An MRO facility at the airport is scheduled to open in the first quarter of 2013. The $206 million project is funded by China's Ex-Im Bank.

It will also have a 1,000m² (10,700ft²) cargo facility, capable of handling 45,000t annually.

In January, the country's flag carrier SriLankan Airlines conducted a test flight to the airport using Airbus A320 aircraft.

The airline plans to operate services to Southeast Asia and the Middle East, with a Mattala transit leg added on to its existing routes served by Colombo airport, its chairman Nishantha Wickremasinghe said last year.