SLAF’s premier flying school marks 71 years

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The cradle of military aviators, Air Force’s leading flying training wing, steps into its 71st year of proud service to the motherland on 1 September 2022. The prestigious and premier flying school of the Royal Ceylon Air Force was established on 1 September 1951 as the “Flying Wing” at the then Royal Ceylon Air Force station Katunayake. Since its inception the wing has been at the forefront in grooming young and enthusiastic men and women to become fully fledged military pilots. In 1951, four Canadian DHC-1 Chipmunk aircraft were inducted for flying duties.

Five more Chipmunk aircraft and three British Airspeed Oxford aircraft were inducted in 1952 and 1953 respectively to supplement the capacity of the Flying Wing.

In 1954, six British Balliol aircraft were inducted to enhance the wing’s training capacity. With the induction of Balliols, the Flying Wing, which only trained pilots in basic flying, was able to provide advance flying skills making a notable change in flying operations. In 1955 two new aircraft were inducted; namely the Scottish Prestwick Pioneer and the UK-built DH 104 Dove.

In 1959, RCyAF Flying Wing became the first flying squadron to operate jet powered aircraft with the addition of 12 British Hunting Jet Provost aircraft thereby propelling the wing into a new era in flying. In 1963, the Flying Training school was shifted to China Bay which was a better airfield for training. In 1970, six American Cessna 150 aircraft were inducted for training as the Chipmunks were phased out. In 1984 three new aircraft types were inducted for both training and operational requirements. Hence, three Siai Marchetti Warriors, three Siai Marchetti 260TPs and three Cessna 337 Sky Masters were added.

In 1988, due to the declined security situation in the East, the wing was relocated to SLAF Base Anuradhapura. In 1992, Argentinian IA 58 Pucara aircraft joined the wing to enhance the operational capability of the SLAF. On 1 March 2000, the wing was awarded President’s Colours by then President Chandrika Bandaranayake Kumaratunga. In 2001, the FTW aircraft fleet was expanded with the induction of six Chinese PT-6 aircraft to be used as an “Ab-initio” trainer. 22 October 2007 was a day to remember for all members of the Flying Training Wing and SLAF Base Anuradhapura as the LTTEs carried out a surprise attack on the hangar. The attack destroyed three PT-6 aircraft and one K-8 aircraft in the fleet. After the humanitarian conflict, the wing was shifted back to China Bay on 1 January 2009. In April 2010, No-14 Squadron which operated Chinese built K-8 aircraft was also merged. In 2018, six more PT-6 aircraft were purchased to further enhance the training capacity of the wing.

The present Commander of the Sri Lanka Air Force, Air Marshal Sudarshana Pathirana served as a Qualified Flying Instructor during the year of 1999 and was a pillar of knowledge and strength to many aspiring young pilots of the Air Force. The first Commanding Officer of the wing was Flt Lt Norman Lush of the Royal Air Force and presently Wing Commander I.S. Mallawaarachchi commands the Flying Training Wing as the 33rd Commanding Officer.

The wing operates three aircraft platforms at present, C-150 and PT-6 for Basic Flying training while K-8 aircraft are used for Advanced and Fighter Conversion Training. Other than providing flying training for cadets, the wing also caters with Flying Instructor Training and Basic Air Traffic Control Courses as well. More than 350 pilots have successfully completed their basic flying training and passed out from this prestigious institution.

The premier flying school has been the cradle of military aviators in Sri Lanka for 71 years since its inception and it boasts of grooming many exemplary and extraordinary individuals to protect the skies of our motherland. It has met with all the standards expected from a flying training establishment for decades and will continue to do so for the generations to come.