ICAO’s Asia Pacific Regional Office interviewed the new Director General of the Civil Aviation Authority in Sri Lanka, Captain Themiya Abeywickrama. We are sharing excerpts from this session below.
Q: Tell us about the experiences that brought you to your current role.
A: I started my flying career at Sierra Academy in California, and was fortunate to earn a place as a cadet in AirLanka, our National Carrier in 1990. I left the renamed Sri Lankan Airlines in 2008, as a CAA Designated Check Pilot and Captain on the Airbus A 320/330/340.
I was with the King of good times, Kingfisher Airlines, as their Widebody Fleet Instructor, until 2011, when I joined Sri Lanka’s second Airline, Mihin Lanka, as the Chief Pilot Training and Standards.
I next joined the fledgeling Himalayan Airlines in 2015, as their General Manager/Deputy Director Operations. I coordinated and implemented their Operations Manuals and helped them to achieve their Air Operators Certificate from the Nepal Civil Aviation Authority. I also conducted Acceptance Test Flights for their Airbus Fleet, as a DCP for the CAAN.
Wataniya Airways offered me a bigger challenge in 2016, when I joined as Director Operations/Project Manager, to once again obtain the AOC from the Kuwait DGCA. There too I conducted Acceptance Test Flights for their fleet, and coordinated overflight and landing rights with various adjoining countries Civil Aviation Authorities.
Finally, in 2018, I joined Jazeera Airways for a bit of a rest, conducting Special Flights, and flying the line.
It was a great honour for me when Sri Lanka’s President asked me to take over this Authority, a challenge I gladly accepted, given the prevailing pandemic situation and the ensuing turbulence of the aviation industry.
Q: As the newly appointed Director General/CEO of CAA Sri Lanka what are your immediate, mid-term and long-term goals and priorities?
A: My immediate goal is to safely and efficiently shepherd this Authority and indeed the Sri Lankan Aviation Industry that I took over, through this current unprecedented crisis.
Next, I intend using all available expertise and resources within this Authority and using the assistance of the Industry experts such as IATA & ICAO, to ensure the reawakening and resurgence of all stakeholders of this industry, including the Airline Operators, Domestic Aviation, the FTO’s etc.
Q: Considering the current COVID-19 impact on aviation, what do you think are the biggest challenges our industry will face in the next 5 years? How do you see the aviation industry changing in the coming years, and how do you see yourself or your CAA handling that change?
A: We have to be ready to accept the new normal, unfortunately, it’s difficult to say or predict what it will be. We expect a significant drop in air travel for the next three years. By then hopefully with a vaccine being found the industry will grow back to what it was but very gradually. But this doesn’t mean that we should reduce our work patterns or thinking processes, we shall continue to identify out of the box methods to sustain the industry. I believe we have to start facilitating in whatever the way we can as an example to help operators with less stringent rules but with even better safety oversights.
Finally, once we have negotiated this turbulent period, I will spare no effort to surpass pre-COVID level Service excellence, both within this Authority and of Sri Lankan Aviation.