Air Ceylon

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Air Ceylon
Air Ceylon logo.png
IATA ICAO Callsign
Founded 1947 (1947)
Colombo, Ceylon
Ceased operations 1978 (1978)
Hubs Ratmalana Airport (1947-1967)
Bandaranaike International Airport (1967-1978)
Fleet size 3 (In 1978)
Headquarters Colombo, Ceylon

Air Ceylon was the flag carrier airline of Sri Lanka (known as Ceylon until 1972) from 1947 until 1978, when it was replaced by Air Lanka.


An Air Ceylon Douglas DC-8 approaches Zurich Airport in 1977.
An Air Ceylon Hawker Siddeley Trident at Subang Airport in 1978.

Air Ceylon was established in 1947 as state-owned flag carrier airline, initially operating scheduled domestic flights using Douglas C-47 Dakota aircraft. International services with Douglas DC-4s commenced in 1949, in a co-operation with Australian National Airways (ANA), which acquired a 49 percent stake in Air Ceylon. The longest route flown at that time was to London Heathrow airport.[citation needed]

The partnership with ANA lasted until 1953,[citation needed] when it was replaced by new international co-operations: In 1956 with KLM,[1] which included the lease of 2 Lockheed Constellation airliners for long-haul flights, and with BOAC in 1962, allowing the re-launch of flights to London using the de Havilland Comet.[citation needed]

From the mid-1960s, the Hawker Siddeley HS 748 became the aircraft mainly used on Air Ceylon's short-haul routes, along with the Aérospatiale N 262. When Bandaranaike International Airport was completed in 1967, Air Ceylon opened its hub there. A Hawker Siddeley Trident jet airliner was purchased in 1969 and it was operated on regional routes until it was withdrawn in July 1978.[citation needed]

In 1972, Union de Transports Aériens (UTA) became Air Ceylon's partner, introducing French-made aircraft into the fleet. UTA ended the partnership on 31 March 1977, leaving Air Ceylon without a European aide.[1] In 1978, Air Ceylon was shut down by the Sri Lankan government due to bankruptcy, and Air Lanka was established as new national carrier.


Before ending operations in 1978, Air Ceylon had 3 Douglas DC-8's. 2 of them were sold to Biman Bangladesh Airlines and Pomair. The other was scrapped.

Over the years, Air Ceylon operated the following aircraft types

Aircraft Introduced Retired
Aérospatiale N 262
Boeing 707
Boeing 720
Convair 990 Coronado
de Havilland Comet
Douglas DC-3
Douglas DC-4
Douglas DC-8
Hawker Siddeley HS 748
Hawker Siddeley Trident
Lockheed Constellation
Lockheed L-188 Electra
Sud Aviation Caravelle
Vickers VC10



During that period, Air Ceylon offered multiple-stopover flights, which were leaving Colombo on three routes: To Europe, to Australia, and a regional one to India. KLM was the important partner airline, serving as general sales agent for Air Ceylon.[2][3]


Due to more modern aircraft with a longer range, fewer stops were required on the long-distance routes, reducing travel time. Air Ceylon passengers could reach additional destinations (in Europe and towards Australia) with co-operative BOAC or Qantas flights.[4]


The co-operation with BOAC and Qantas was reduced at that time, instead a codeshare-like agreement was signed with Indian Airlines. As a consequence, Air Ceylon re-launched services to Australia and expanded its European network.[5][6][7]

Accidents and incidents[edit]

  • On 21 December 1949, an Air Ceylon Douglas C-47 Dakota (registered VP-CAT) was damaged beyond repair in a crash landing at Tiruchirapalli Airport following a scheduled passenger flight from Jaffna. The 21 passengers and three crew members survived the accident.[8]
  • On 7 September 1978, an Air Ceylon Hawker Siddeley HS 748 (registered 4R-ACJ) was destroyed in a fire while parked at Ratmalana Airport. Two pilots had been carrying out pre-departure checkups, when the fire started by the explosion of a bomb in the aircraft cargo hold.[9]