Jaffna Airport

Jaffna Airport
யாழ்ப்பாணம் விமான நிலையம்
යාපනය ගුවන්තොටුපළ

SLAF Palaly
Airport type Military/Public
Owner Government of Sri Lanka
Operator Sri Lanka Air Force
Serves Jaffna
Location Palaly, Sri Lanka
Commander A. J. Amarasinghe
Elevation AMSL 10 m / 33 ft
Coordinates 09°47′32.40″N 80°04′12.30″E / 9.7923333°N 80.0700833°E / 9.7923333; 80.0700833Coordinates: 09°47′32.40″N 80°04′12.30″E / 9.7923333°N 80.0700833°E / 9.7923333; 80.0700833
Direction Length Surface
m ft
05/23 2,305 7,562 Asphalt

Jaffna Airport (Tamil: யாழ்ப்பாணம் விமான நிலையம், Sinhalese: යාපනය ගුවන්තොටුපළ) (IATA: JAF, ICAO: VCCJ) is an air force base and domestic airport in Palaly in northern Sri Lanka.[1][2] Located approximately 16 km (9.9 mi) north of the city of Jaffna, the airport is also known as Palaly Airport and SLAF Palaly. Originally built by the Royal Air Force during World War II, it served as the country's second international airport before being taken over by the Sri Lanka Air Force.


During World War II the British Royal Air Force built an airfield in Palaly near Kankesanthurai in northern Ceylon.[3][4] A number of RAF squadrons (160, 203, 292, 354) and air-sea rescue units were stationed at the airfield during and immediately after the war.[5] The airfield was abandoned after the war and taken over by the Department of Civil Aviation.[4]

The inaugural flight by Air Ceylon on 10 December 1947 was from Ratmalana Airport to Madras via Kankesanthurai.[6] After independence the airport provided domestic flights to Colombo and international flights to south India.[7] The growth of Tamil militancy put an end to civilian flights at the airport.[7]

A Sri Lanka Air Force detachment moved onto the site around 1976.[4] The site became an Air Field Unit in January 1982.[4] The airport served as major facility for the Sri Lankan military during the civil war. During the early 1990s the airport and surrounding areas were declared a High Security Zone and all the residents expelled.[8][9] Between 1990 and 1995 this High Security Zone was the only government controlled territory on the Valikamam region. After the Valikamam was recaptured by the Sri Lankan military in 1995 the airport served as a vital link to the rest of the country as the land route was controlled by the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. In 1996 Lion Air started operating flights for civilians between Jaffna and Colombo. Monara Airlines started flights on the same route in March 1998.[10] Monara suspended its services on 16 September 1998 after receiving threats from the LTTE for carrying military personnel.[11] On 29 September 1998 Lionair Flight 602 left the airport around 1.48pm bound for Ratmalana Airport.[12] At 2.10 pm it was reported missing. Locals reported seeing the plane plunge into the sea near Iranaitivu, 15 km north of Mannar.[13] All 55 on board were killed.[14] The LTTE was accused of shooting down the flight.[15]

Civilian flights resumed from the airport in 2002 after the Norwegian facilitated ceasefire.[7] In June 2002 ExpoAir started operating flights for civilians between Jaffna and Colombo.[16][17] ExpoAir suspended services due to a drop in demand but services resumed again in January 2012.[18] A new passenger terminal was opened on 4 January 2013.[19][20]

Airlines and destinations


FitsAir Colombo-Ratmalana, Trincomalee
Helitours Colombo-Ratmalana, Trincomalee
Millennium Airlines Colombo-Bandaranaike, Colombo-Ratmalana
SriLankan Airlines
operated by Cinnamon Air
Charter: Colombo-Bandaranaike


FitsAir Colombo-Ratmalana
Lankan Cargo Colombo-Ratmalana


  1. "VCCJ KANKESANTURAI / Jaffna". Aeronautical Information Services of Sri Lanka, Airport & Aviation Services.
  2. "JAF - Airport". Great Circle Mapper.
  3. "Jaffna, Sri Lanka". Ceylon Today. 4 November 2012.
  4. 1 2 3 4 "History of Air Force Palaly". Sri Lanka Air Force. Archived from the original on 11 August 2007.
  5. "RAF Stations - K". Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation.
  6. Thiedeman, Roger (7 December 1997). "A foundation in the sky: Air Ceylon was born 50 years ago". The Sunday Times (Sri Lanka).
  7. 1 2 3 Gunawardena, Charles A. (2005). Encyclopedia of Sri Lanka. Sterling Publishers. p. 10. ISBN 1932705481.
  8. Jeyaraj, D. B. S. (18 January 2003). "High-stakes zones". Frontline (magazine). 20 (2).
  9. "Asia Report No. 220 - Sri Lanka's North II: Rebuilding under the Military" (PDF). International Crisis Group. 16 March 2012. p. 21.
  10. "First flight fiasco". TamilNet. 2 March 1998.
  11. "Jaffna airline offices close". TamilNet. 16 September 1998.
  12. "Lion Air flight said missing". TamilNet. 29 September 1998.
  13. "Fishermen say witnessed crash". TamilNet. 30 September 1998.
  14. "Shattered dreams behind Lion Air mystery". The Sunday Times (Sri Lanka). 4 October 1998.
  15. "Information Bulletin No 19 - Lion air Flight 602 From Jaffna: Crossing The Bar Into The Twilight of Silence". University Teachers for Human Rights. 16 October 1998.
  16. "Jaffna in just over 1 hour with ExpoAir Jaffna in just over 1 hour with ExpoAir". adaderana.lk. 26 January 2012.
  17. "Soaring demand for flights to Jaffna". TamilNet. 10 August 2002.
  18. "ExpoAir flies to Jaffna". The Island (Sri Lanka). 24 January 2012.
  19. "New passenger terminal for Palaly". Ceylon Today. 5 January 2013.
  20. "New Passenger Terminal at Palaly Airport". Daily FT. 7 January 2013.

External links

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