Harry Goonatilake

Harry Goonetileke
Born (1929-11-27)November 27, 1929
Mutwall, Ceylon
Died April 11, 2008(2008-04-11) (aged 78)
Colombo, Sri Lanka
Allegiance Sri Lanka Sri Lanka
Service/branch Sri Lanka Air Force
Years of service 30 years
Rank Air Chief Marshal
Unit No. 2 (Transport) Squadron, RCyAF
Commands held Commander of the Sri Lankan Air Force,
Chief of Air Staff,
Director Operations.
Battles/wars 1971 Insurrection,
Sri Lankan Civil War
Awards Uttama Seva Padakkama,
Sri Lanka Armed Services Long Service Medal,
Ceylon Armed Services Long Service Medal
Other work Air Lanka, Board of Directors

Air Chief Marshal W.D. Harry Goonetileke USP, ndc, psc, SLAF (November 27, 1929 April 11, 2008) was the fifth Commander of the Sri Lanka Air Force from November 1, 1976 to April 30, 1981.[1]

Early life

Born 27 November 1929, as the only son of a family of five girls, his father was a booking clerk in the Railways Department and became an Assistant Transportation Superintendent at the time of retirement. Educated at the Royal College, Colombo and played of the college rugby team, he would continue to play and coach the air force team as well.

Career in the Air Force

Harry Goonetileke joined the Royal Ceylon Air Force as a Flight Cadet in 1951 in the first batch of locally trained pilots. He received his flight training in the Chipmunk and Balliol aircraft and earning his Wings in 1954, and 4 years later in 1958 was promoted to Squadron Leader. He was one the members of a team that flew to UK and back ferrying the RCyAF's new de Havilland Heron aircraft to Ceylon. His commands included Commanding Officer No. 2 (Transport) Squadron, RCyAF and Commanding Officer of RCyAF China Bay, with responsibility for the Cadet training there. In 1962 he became Station Commander and after further training at Staff College, Wellington he was appointed Director of Operations with responsibility for all flying and ground operations in the Force. In this capacity he played a major role during the 1971 Insurrection. He also began the archival process that led in later years to the formation of the SLAF Museum and contributed greatly to SLAF sports particularly Rugby Football. He was the Chief of Air Staff before being promoted as Commander of the Sri Lanka Air Force on November 1, 1976, a post he held till his retirement on April 30, 1981.[2]

In 2007 he was promoted to the rank of Air Chief Marshal along with 9 other former service commanders.

Family life

In 1955 he married Marian Perera and had two sons and two daughters. Both his sons joined the Sri Lanka Air Force, his eldest son Air Marshal Roshan Goonatilake is the current Commander of the Sri Lanka Air Force, his younger son Air Commodore Shirantha Goonatilake RWP, RSP, SLAF was killed in 1995 when the plane he was piloting was shot down by a SAM, to date is the most senior air force officer killed in action.


He died on 11 April 2008.[3] His funeral was held at the General Cemetery Borella, Colombo on 12 April with military honors.[4]


External links

Military offices
Preceded by
Paddy Mendis
Commander of the Sri Lankan Air Force
Succeeded by
Dick Perera

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