Ratmalana Airport

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Colombo Airport Ratmalana
කොළඹ ගුවන්තොටුපළ රත්මලාන
கொழும்பு விமான நிலையம் இரத்மலானை
Colombo Airport Ratmalana logo.png


RML is located in Sri Lanka
Location of airport in Sri Lanka
Airport type Public / Military
Owner Sri Lankan Government
Operator Airport and Aviation Services and Sri Lanka Air Force
Serves Colombo
Location Ratmalana, Sri Lanka
Hub for
Elevation AMSL 16 ft / 5 m
Coordinates 6°49′19.18″N 79°53′10.35″E / 6.8219944°N 79.8862083°E / 6.8219944; 79.8862083Coordinates: 6°49′19.18″N 79°53′10.35″E / 6.8219944°N 79.8862083°E / 6.8219944; 79.8862083
Website www.airport.lk/rma
Direction Length Surface
ft m
4/22 6,675 2,000 Asphalt

Colombo Airport Ratmalana (IATA: RMLICAO: VCCC), is one of the two international airports serving the city of Colombo, Sri Lanka, the other being Bandaranaike International Airport. It's also a major domestic airport and military base in Colombo. It was once Colombo's sole international airport before the construction of Bandaranaike International Airport in the 1960s. After the ongoing renovations the Airport will resume operating international flights[1] Ratmalana airport was the second airport in Sri Lanka after Trincomalee Airport.



In 1934 the State Council of Ceylon made a decision to construct an aerodrome within reach of the capital city of Colombo and decided on Ratmalana as the best site.[1] On 27 November 1935 a De Havilland Puss Moth flown by Tyndalle Bisco, Chief flying instructor of the Madras Flying Club, was the first aircraft to land at the new airport.

Second World War[edit]

RAF Aircraft at the airport

During the Second World War it was used as a Royal Air Force base, with No 30 Squadron flying Hawker Hurricanes from there against Japanese Navy aircraft. QEA flew civilianised Consolidated B-24 Liberator and Avro Lancastrian aeroplanes there from Perth, Western Australia, on what was at the time the world's longest non-stop air route. The flight continued after the war with an intermediate re-fueling stop at the Cocos Islands.

Peak of civilian service[edit]

Ratmalana airport at one time had the country's main air terminal, with the Douglas DC-3 Dakota and Lockheed Constellation aeroplanes of Air Ceylon flying out of it. In 1947, KLM flew Douglas DC-4 Skymasters through the airport on the route from the Netherlands to the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia)

In the 1950s, BOAC flew Canadair Argonauts (DC4 with Rolls Royce Merlin engines) from Ratmalana to London.

On 11 August 1952, 3 months after the inaugural service of a passenger jet aircraft, BOAC began its Comet service between Colombo and London. Later (March 1962 - March 1971) Air Ceylon operated a Comet service on this route to London. The airport was also a Trans World Airlines (TWA) destination for a short time in the 1950s.[2]

Domestic-only era[edit]

In 1964, the government decided to build the new Bandaranaike International Airport north of the city, to replace Ratmalana. The new airport was completed in 1967 and Ratmalana handed over all international services to the new airport. Ratmalana was left with the relatively small market for domestic air travel in the country.

Return to international service[edit]

In 2012, plans were drawn to relaunch Ratmalana as an international airport, to act as a secondary airport for the city.[1]

Ratmalana airport was declared open for small international commercial flights. The airport is available for commercial jet operations from August 2012.

Expansion and upgrade[edit]

The airport is only 20km from the Colombo city center compared to the larger Bandaranaike International Airport which is 32 km north of the city. The airport aims to attract private international flights and Low-cost airlines. Helitours, an airline operated by the Sri Lankan Airforce is based at the airport. There are a few industrial facilities such as the Bata shoe factory within a close proximity of the airport. The Government is developing the Ratmalana airport into an international city airport, which would provide services to private jets and small aircraft.[1] In addition facilities at the Ampara, Batticaloa, Jaffna, and Koggala airports will be also upgraded. Repair to the runway and reconfiguration to the aerodrome for the use of corporate jet traffic would be done as a short-term development project of the Ratmalana airport. Improvements to the existing terminal building, repair to the runway, taxiway and apron, reconfiguration to the aerodrome for the use of corporate jet traffic would be done as a short-term development project of the Ratmalana airport.

Under the medium-term of the Ratmalana airport development project:

  • Improvements to the existing terminal building
  • Control tower
  • Taxiway
  • Runway development and extension to 2000m
  • Road network improvements
  • Navigational equipment installations
  • Constructing a terminal for civil movements and apron also implemented

Current Facilities at the Airport[edit]


There are currently 2 terminals at the airport.

  • Terminal 1: Domestic
  • Terminal 2: Cargo

Airlines And destinations[edit]

Passenger flights[edit]

Airlines Destinations Terminal
FitsAir Jaffna, Trincomalee
Charter: Ampara, Anuradhapura, Batticaloa, Hambantota-Mattala, Hambantota-Weerawila, Hingurakgoda, Kalutara, Koggala, Sigiriya, Vavuniya
Helitours Ampara, Anuradhapura, Batticaloa, Hambantota-Mattala, Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Trincomalee, Vavuniya 1
Millennium Airlines Charter: Anuradhapura, Jaffna, Kalutara, Koggala, Minneriya, Sigiriya, Trincomalee 1

Cargo flights[edit]

Airlines Destinations Terminal
FitsAir Jaffna 2
Lankan Cargo Jaffna, Trincomalee 2

Lodger Squadrons[edit]

Accidents and incidents[edit]



  • 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.[4]


  • 29 September 1998 - Lionair Flight 602, operated by an Antonov An-24RV, fell into the sea off the north-western coast of Sri Lanka under mysterious circumstances after departing Jaffna Airport bound for Ratmalana Airport. All 55 passengers and crew members died, including the four member Ukrainian cockpit crew.


  • 11 December 2014 - An military ferry flight from Bandaranaike International Airport, operated by an Antonov An-32, crashed into an suburb (Athurugiriya) within close proximity of the runway under poor visibility. The exact cause is still under investigation.

See also[edit]


 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

  1. ^ a b c d "Private jets to fly to R’lana A’port". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 27 September 2011. 
  2. ^ "Colombo Service To Open With Flight 904 Feb. 5" (PDF). Skyliner. TWA. Retrieved 19 January 2013. 
  3. ^ "Accident description". Aviation Safety Network. Archived from the original on 2011-02-13. Retrieved 2 October 2009. 
  4. ^ Air Ceylon 1978 bomb incident at the Aviation Safety Network

External links[edit]