Colombo learns lesson from tsunami and aims to get grounded aircraft flying again

Sri Lanka hopes to acquire several additional transport aircraft to improve its future ability to respond to natural disasters such as December's tsunami. The Sri Lankan air force's two Lockheed Martin C-130Ks have been grounded for the last two months, forcing it to rely on smaller Harbin Y-12s and Antonov An-32s to move supplies.

Colombo has asked the USA to speed a shipment of parts required to return one C-130 to flight and to review a 2004 request to obtain at least one additional aircraft from excess US stocks, says air force commander Donald Perera.

US government sources say they are working to supply Sri Lanka with a significant amount of spares and two new engines as quickly as possible, but that they have not been able to determine when an excess C-130 will become available. Perera says Sri Lanka's second C-130K should be returned to service this month after completing depot maintenance in Jordan.

The inactive status of the C-130 fleet did not hinder rescue efforts after the tsunami because the USA deployed two C-130s and aircraft from India and Pakistan also participated in relief efforts, Perera says. Flight operations are being reduced because roads have reopened.

The air force has also asked the Sri Lankan government to fund the purchase of additional transport helicopters, including Bell 412s and Mil Mi-17s, as part of a new five-year budget plan. Perera declines to say how many aircraft will be acquired, but says attrition stocks are needed as a minimum.

At least three more aircraft are required to bolster Sri Lanka's 14-strong Bell 212 fleet, with the company's Model 412 the most likely solution. Bell has been trying to sell Sri Lanka more 412s since it delivered its last of four VIP aircraft in 1999 and, with a third C-130 likely to be provided free of charge, industry sources say funds for at least one more helicopter could be made available this year.


Source: Flight International