Having spanned more than a hundred years, Sri Lanka’s aviation industry is one of the country’s proudest achievements. From the time the first ever airplane entered our airspace in 1912, to the first and only Sri Lankan to fly a plane wearing a sarong in the 1950s, to the 32-year reign of the pioneering local commercial airline, the iconic Air Ceylon, Sri Lankan aviation history has been in turn memorable, entertaining and dynamic. In commemoration of International Civil Aviation Day, recognising the importance of aviation to the social and economic development of the world, here are some of the most compelling stories about Sri Lankan aviation from the Roar archives.
When you read of futuristic supersonic bombers capable of out-racing missiles, or see pictures of billion dollar spaceship-like stealth aircraft, it’s pretty hard to imagine a time when the idea of powered flight was nothing but the stuff of fantasy.
Ravana is a legendary figure who looms large in Sri Lankan and Indian folklore. It is said that the ten-headed monarch, also known as the demon king, ruled over the prehistoric kingdom of Lanka more than 4,000 years ago.
From the myths and legends of Ravana’s aircraft, the dandu monara, to the stories of the sarong-clad pilot, Paulis Appuhamy, and the cricketing pilot, Sunil Wettimuny, it is quite apparent that Sri Lanka has had quite an interesting run in terms of aviation.
There are several tales about the legendary King Ravana and his aircraft, or vimana—the most famous one being the Dandu monara. Of course, there is no archaeological evidence to prove that King Ravana existed, or was a pioneer of aviation, but Sri Lanka does indeed have a rich aviation history which dates back to more than a century.
It was in 1912 that the first plane took off into Sri Lankan airspace when two Frenchmen, Georges Verminck and Marc Poupre, flew two Bleriot monoplanes, christened La Curieuse and Rajah, from Race Course Grounds in Colombo. They became the first men to successfully complete a safe, powered, and controlled flight in Ceylon’s skies.
Upali had many dreams, but his legacy was defined by his entrepreneurial spirit, which is what we aim to focus on. Rest assured, though, it’s going to get interesting.