Friday, July 24, 2009

Sri Lanka's Air Force Turns To Tourist Flights After War

COLOMBO (AFP)--Sri Lanka's air force announced Wednesday it would run domestic flights to meet an expected surge in tourism following the end of nearly four decades of fighting with Tamil rebels.

Wing Commander Janaka Nanayakkara said fixed-wing aircraft would operate from the capital Colombo to the northern peninsula of Jaffna and the eastern coastal resort of Trincomalee.

A helicopter service will also operate to Sigiriya, a 5th century rock fortress declared a world heritage site by Unesco.

"Initially we will operate a thrice-weekly service," Nanayakkara said, adding the flights would start within a week.

Sri Lanka's air force has a fleet of transport helicopters and aircraft that played a key role in the military's victory against Tamil Tiger rebels in mid- May.

Military officials said the air force was gearing up for a peace time role serving an expected increase in tourists visiting the island nation.

At the height of fighting, the government banned all domestic commercial flights fearing that Tamil rebels could use a hijacked aircraft to carry out attacks.

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