Sri Lankan broadcaster Vernon Corea wanted his family to experience flying for the first time. He arranged for his wife and children to fly on Air Ceylon in way back in 1962. The family travelled to Ratmalana Airport also known as Colombo Airport (where Air Ceylon was based) and boarded a special one hour flight – the aircraft was a Air Ceylon DC3.
The flight was a special one – during the Wesak Festival in Ceylon. The DC3 flew over the City of Colombo enabling the passengers to see the sights of the capital. Vernon’s children were excited, this was their first ever flight.They thoroughly enjoyed the occasion.
When Vernon and the family left Sri Lanka for England, they flew on Air Ceylon’s sleek DC8 aircraft with several stops enroute to London’s Heathrow Airport. Air Ceylon’s DC8 jetliner was based at Katunayake Airport.
Here is the history of Air Ceylon – the island’s first ever national carrier:
Initial services, which were domestic and regional, used Douglas DC-3 Dakotas. The home base was Colombo Ratmalana Airport. On 21 December 1949, an Air Ceylon Douglas DC-3 crashed at Trichinopoly, India.
International services commenced in 1949 in partnership with Australian National Airways (ANA) using two Douglas DC-4 Skymasters named ‘Laxapana’ and ‘Ratmalana’. The ANA partnership ceased in 1953.
In 1956 a partnership arrangement commenced with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, who provided a Lockheed 749 Constellation on wet-lease for international services. This was later replaced by a Lockheed 1049 Super Constellation, and later still, a Lockheed 188 Electra turboprop.
In 1962, in a pool partnership with BOAC, international services from Colombo-Katunayake to London were started, using de Havilland Comet 4 jetliners. The Comet 4s were replaced by Vickers (BAC) VC10s in 1967
An Avro (Hawker Siddeley) 748 turboprop was obtained in 1964. A second HS 748 was added later. The type became the mainstay of Air Ceylon’s regional and domestic routes and would continue until the airline was closed down.
To supplement the Avro 748, Air Ceylon bought a Nord 262 for domestic routes in 1967.
In 1969, a Hawker Siddeley (D.H.121) Trident jetliner was obtained for medium-haul regional routes.
In 1972, Air Ceylon leased a Douglas DC-8 from Union des Transports Aériens for its European services, which also included Paris. This aircraft was replaced in 1977 by another unit of the same make purchased by the airline. Also leased was a Boeing 720 jet.
Following bankruptcy the airline was closed down by the Government of J.R. Jayawardene in 1978.
Air Ceylon served the following:
- Egypt – Cairo
- France – Paris
- India – Bombay, Madras, Tiruchirapalli
- Indonesia – Jakarta
- Italy – Rome
- Malaysia – Kuala Lumpur
- Maldives – Malé
- Netherlands – Amsterdam
- Pakistan – Karachi
- Sri Lanka – Batticaloa, Colombo, Gal Oya, Jaffna, Trincomalee
- Switzerland – Zurich
- Thailand – Bangkok
- United Arab Emirates – Sharjah
- United Kingdom – London