SriLankan Airlines CEO Suren Ratwatte welcoming former Chief Pilots Nanadalal Nadaraja and Janaka Perera
By Shehana Dain
SriLankan Airlines, the first in Asia 22 years ago to operate the Airbus A340, yesterday retired the last of the aircraft ceremoniously.
Over the years since the A340 joined the SriLankan fleet in 1994 there had been seven A340s and the aircraft was the mainstay of its long haul fleet.
To fill the void the national career has inducted a brand new fleet of seven A330-300 aircraft which offers the latest comforts and technology such as mood lighting, on board Wi-Fi connectivity and a more sophisticated entertainment system.
SriLankan took the decision to retire the A340 fleet as it lacked the entertainment systems and the hi-tech environment which the customers demanded adding to the high fuel burn up of the A340s four engines. Thus the A330s are expected to be more economical due to reduction of fuel consumption by 15%.
SriLankan Airlines CEO Suren Ratwatte said: “The A340s played a vital role in our network expansion for the last two decades. This allowed the national carrier to explore new markets, thereby contributing to the country’s economy by bringing in more tourists. These aircrafts largely contributed to our unique selling proposition of operating nonstop flights out of, and in to Colombo, which gave us an added advantage over regional competitors. As we send off this aircraft, the national carrier has embarked upon a new journey with our modern fleet of A330-300s, which brings together the inherent characteristics of Sri Lankan hospitality with modernity of world travel.”
The special occasion turned nostalgic for the national carrier as the top management decided to give the former chief pilots Nandalal Nadaraja and Janaka Perera an opportunity to visit the A340’s cockpit one final time.
The last of the seven A340s, bearing the registration 4R-ADF ended its era of flight hours as it touched down at Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport at 11.30 a.m. yesterday, after which it will be returned to its aircraft lessor. The A340s fleet was retired over the last 10 months.
“The A340s were our long haul workhorses and it is with a sense of nostalgia and regret that we are retiring them but we are very excited about our new fleet of A330-300s,” SriLankan Airlines Head of Flight Operations, Captain Rajind Ranatunga quipped.
The A340s were introduced to replace the then SriLankan’s aging fleet of Lockheed L1011 Tristars, at a time when twin engine aircraft did not quite have the range to fly non-stop from Colombo to Sri Lankan’s farthest destinations such as London and Tokyo. The model had a range of over 13,000 kilometres and could carry nearly 300 passengers. However the engine technology improved over the years, and twin engine A330s began to operate on these routes, replacing the A340s.
Ratwatte is optimistic about the national career’s future with the new A330 fleet on place as it would meet customer demand specifications and in addition reduce fuel expenses aiming the ultimate final objective to hit break even.