Still Grounded

March 4, 2007 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s new state-run budget airline cancelled its maiden flight on Sunday because of technical problems, airport officials said. A Mihin Air flight was due to depart for India’s southern city of Thiruvananthapuram from the island’s sole international airport, but the trip was scrapped due to problems with the plane’s nose wheel, officials said.

The flight from Colombo was a requirement for Mihin Air to get an “air operating certificate” from the Civil Aviation Authority of Sri Lanka. No paying passengers were on board the test voyage.

The certificate, if awarded, will give Mihin Air clearance to operate and handle all other aspects of a commercial flight using a leased Fokker-27 aircraft.

The airline does not own, or lease, any other aircraft now and would announce a schedule to Indian subcontinent and Middle East destinations once it is licensed, the government has said.

Mihin Air’s start-up costs are expected be 1.5 billion rupees (15 million dollars). The government has set aside 500 million rupees (five million dollars) as working capital. Sri Lanka’s national carrier SriLankan airlines is partly owned and f