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Operating to Jeddah in modern times



By Capt. G A Fernando,
RCyAF/ SLAF, Air Ceylon,
Air Lanka, Singapore Airlines and SriLankan Airlines

This has reference to Capt. Elmo Jayawardene’s and Mr Lionel Sirimanne’s (Uncle ‘Siri’ to most of us) articles regarding flights to Jeddah many moons ago with multiple night stops in the Douglas DC3 Dakota’s. Right at its inception in 1979, Air Lanka didn’t operate to or even in Saudi Arabian Air space. The two Boeing 707s plying between the Middle East and Europe used the more northern routes through Kuwait, Iraq, Jordan and Syria till the advent of the Iran-Iraq war. Then airlines were forced to stay south and fly westward across the Saudi Arabian Dessert and then go northwards from Hail. It was then that our pilots had to speak with Jeddah Control, whose radio coverage was mediocre at best and thus taxing their patience.

Today, the modern, ‘state of the art’ jet planes are capable of flying nonstop to Jeddah with no intermediate stops. Before they leave the ground, the pilots pre-programme their on-board computers on ground and they determine an imaginary ‘Green Line’ in the Airbuses or a ‘Magenta Line’ in the Boeings defining their proposed route. The displays provide them with a host of information. Amongst other things, how to proceed to their destination. They just follow that line in their navigation displays. Some say that the pilots have become aircraft operators and ‘children’ of that ‘computer generated line’. It has made flying more accurate.

Our fights to ‘Jiddah’ (as some Sri Lankans would say) were associated with carrying fare-paying pilgrims to Mecca. Our timing had to be perfect during the ‘Haj’ due to build-up of air traffic through the years. Miss-timing our arrivals at the ‘Haj Terminal’ involved heavy fines for the airline as the Terminal building could accommodate a limited number of aircraft. By Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) standards it was still a relatively very large amount.

When approaching Jeddah, usually the leader of the group (Nade Gura) will ask the flight crew for the ‘Miquat Point’. This is the point at which the pilgrims should prepare themselves mentally and physically for the task at hand. It was marked in our Aviation route maps with a little triangle. The Captains would also allow them the use of the on board Public Address system to conduct their prayers. Being capable of direct flight, the airlines would fly across the Arabian sea of the Indian Ocean to Oman and then the Saudi Arabian desert, over many wheat farms tracing circular patterns of green. Not many know that at one time (1995) Saudi Arabia was almost self-sufficient in Wheat. The policy has changed since, as the circular, US style irrigation systems in the desert were depleting precious ground water.

Since the direct flight times from Colombo were relatively short, the crews were allowed to do a turnaround flights in accordance with the flight duty time limitations with an extra Captain on board on board providing relief and get back to Colombo.


Flights from Singapore were longer and necessitated a night stop for the inbound crew. The off season frequency was once a week. As a result we had to stay one whole week in Jeddah. Since there was not much to do and the Five Star Hotel we ‘slipped’ in, had provided a crew room with cooking facilities, the crew would organise a shopping/ marketing party on the morning of the night after our arrival to buy food for the next six days. It was compulsory that all females wear an Abaya (a black garb provided by the hotel) over their clothes, when in public. One day, we met at the reception to go shopping, I noticed that some of the girls were wearing their short, shorts that could have normally been worn in Singapore under the Abaya. As some of them were on their first visit ever to Jeddah, being their Captain and the most senior member I had to advised them to exercise some decorum and change to a more acceptable dress as the Abaya’s didn’t cover up all their sins, especially on a windy day. Another time my Australian First Officer came down for the same exercise in a pair of shorts, showing off his knobby knees and that too did not seem like a good idea to me. So he was forced to do a quick change.

The girls (and boys) would cook every day and call the rest of us for Brunch and Dinner. Our allowances were based on the Hotel Coffee Shop Menu prices. This exercise would, after defraying the costs (deserts and all), came to a fraction of the Coffee shop prices thus providing home cooking, interesting company and a substantial saving for all. Only mad dogs and Englishmen went out in the midday sun!

After one of these flight patterns, we took off one night in an Airbus A340-300 aircraft, from Jeddah to Singapore. Immediately after take-off, the standard operation procedure required us to select the wheels up, to reduce aerodynamic drag. We’ve been doing this for over a thousand times. This time, however, with an accompanying ‘ting’ a message came up on the computer display unit to say that the landing gear doors were not properly closed and as a result that there would be additional fuel burn and our destination, Singapore could not be reached. We then recycled the Landing Gear down and up, to see whether the situation would clear itself. The message remained the same. The most appropriate thing to do was to return to base (RTB).

Then another consideration had to be made regarding our operation. Our landing weight exceeding the maximum limiting landing weight. We were carrying fuel all the way to Singapore and therefore needed to get rid of some fuel to lighten our load. This process is known as ‘fuel dumping’. We could land above the Maximum Landing weight, in the event of an emergency, where time was of essence but will entail some mandatory checks on the gear after landing, to see whether we have broken anything or not.

We were in no hurry and besides dumping was the safer option, so we asked the control tower for an area (away from humanity) above which we could dump our extra fuel. If the aircraft flies high enough, the fuel ‘atomises’ into a fine mist. We were also not allowed to circle, when dumping fuel as it always possible for the jet engines to ingest the unburnt fuel. We were directed over the Jeddah harbour and instructed to fly outbound on a given heading over the Red Sea and then track inbound. So we flew outbound till the required load was reduced to half and then turned inbound to dump the other half. We were at the required weight when we were back over the harbour and then landed without any further incident. After shutting down engines, at the parking stand, we found the nose wheel doors, slowly dropped open and didn’t stay locked up. The engineers couldn’t rectify the problem immediately and we had to spend another night in Jeddah. The high point was that there were 220 ice creams on board that had to be consumed. The air crew and ground crew had many ice creams as they wished!

Back with SriLankan Airlines, I did many turnaround flights to Jeddah. My last flight to Jeddah was to ferry an empty Airbus A330 aircraft from London Heathrow. We flew eastwards to Zurich and then southwards to Rome and further south past Brindisi, in southern Italy and the Greek Islands, across the Mediterranean Sea  to overhead the port of Alexandrea, Followed the Nile (and the Green Line) to Cairo and then across the Red Sea to Jeddah. Since we had no fare-paying passengers, except for a dead heading (flying as passengers) crew. They had organised a party (loud music and all) in the First Class section on board while my First Officer and I flew the A330 to Jeddah it certainly was lonely at the ‘pointy end’, beyond the bullet (and sound) proof Flight Deck door and had only the stars in the night sky to keep us company.

Party or no party, watching the sights of northern France, the Swiss Alps and the Matterhorn in the dusk, Roma, Italy, Greek Islands, Mediterranean Sea, port of Alexandria, Egypt and the lights in the settlements of the Nile delta and the Aswan Dam, from 40,000 feet, all in ‘one go’, as advertised in our Flight Plan, made our day. Since the station staff had put us up in a resort by the Red Sea, the next day we were able to have a ‘dip’ in the sea, before heading for home a day later.

Yes, ‘Aviation’ has changed quite a lot from the fifties. Now, with the advent of the Covid-19, let us brace ourselves for further changes which may not be anything like what we have experienced before.

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Hair Growth and Thickness



LOOK GOOD – with Disna


* Oil:

Oiling is an old home remedy for hair growth and thickness. Oiling is also used for the strength, shine, and length of hair, from ancient times. The use of coconut oil, especially, is very effective when it comes to the amplification of hair health. Additionally, there are many essential oils for faster hair growth which you can use, too.

* How to Use: Generally, hair oiling works best when applied overnight. You could use this therapy every night, or after each night, then wash your hair, in the morning, before heading for studies, or work.


* Aloe Vera:

Aloe vera has long been used as a home remedy for hair growth, thickness, and treating hair loss problems It contains vitamins A, C, and E. All three of these vitamins are known to contribute to cell turnover, supporting healthy cell growth and shiny hair. Plus, vitamin B-12 and folic acid are also included in aloe vera gel. Both of these elements can keep your hair from falling out. Aloe vera plants can be easily grown indoors. A leaf can be plucked, occasionally, and cut open to reveal its gel. This gel needs to be applied on the scalp, basically, to provide nourishment to the roots.

*  How to Use:

Rub this gel on your head properly, leaving no area dry; wash after half an hour or so. Keeping this massage as a part of your weekly routine will eventually make your hair thick and long.


*  Green Tea:

Green tea is often consumed as a home remedy for weight loss. Surprisingly, it has many other benefits, including hair-related benefits.

* How to Use:

Consuming green tea once every day can add to the strength and length of your hair. If your body is extremely comfortable with green tea, then you may even consume it twice every day.


* Onion Juice:

A bi-weekly application of onion juice can relieve you of your tension, regarding hair health. The smell can really torture you, but divert your attention in doing something else for a while, like making a puzzle or washing the dishes. From an early age, onion juice has been used as a home remedy to control hair fall. Research has shown that onion juice has been successful in treating patchy alopecia areata (non-scarring hair loss condition) by promoting hair growth .

* How to Use:

Take half onion and blend it. Apply the mixture on every nook and corner of your scalp and let it sit for some 60 minutes, or so. Shampoo it off when it’s time for the hair-wash.

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Fun-loving, but… sensitive



This week, my chat is with Nilu Vithanage. She is quite active, as a teledrama actress – having done four, already; her first was ‘Pavela Will Come In The Cloud, Mom’ (playing the role of a nurse). Then Came ‘Heavenly Palaces’ (student), ‘Black Town’ (a village character Kenkaiya), and ‘Wings Of Fire,’ currently being shown, with Nilu as a policewoman. You could checkout ‘Wings Of Fire,’ weekdays, on Swarnavahini, at 7.30 pm. Nilu is also active as a stage drama artiste, dancer…and has also been featured in musical videos.

And, this is how our chit-chat went…

1. How would you describe yourself?

Let’s say, I’m a bit on the playful side, and I like to have a lot of fun. But, I do find the time to relax, and, at home, it’s dancing to music! Yeah, I love dancing. Oh, I need to add that I’m a bit sensitive.

2. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I get angry quickly. Fortunately, that anger doesn’t last long – just five to 10 minutes. But I wish I could get rid of anger, totally from my system!

3. If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?

Nope, can’t think of anything, in particular. Everything is fine with us, and I’m proud of my only brother, and I feel safe when he is around. Or, come to think of it, if I did have another brother, I would feel doubly safe…when going out, in particular!

4. School?

I did my studies at two schools – C.W.W. Kannangara Central College, and Panadura Sumangala Girls’ School for my higher studies. Representing my school, I won first place in a speech competition and dance competition, as well.

5. Happiest moment?

When my husband comes home, or talks to me on the phone. He is stationed in Hatton and those calls and home visits are my happiest moments

6. What is your idea of perfect happiness?

I really find a lot of happiness feeding the fish, in ponds. I love to see them rush to pick up the tidbits I throw into the pond. That’s my kind of happiness – being close to nature.

7. Are you religious?

I would say ‘yes’ to that question. I like to go to the temple, listen to sermons, participate in meditation programmes, and I do not miss out on observing sil, whenever possible. I also find solace in visiting churches.

8. Are you superstitious?

A big ‘no.’ Not bothered about all those superstitious things that generally affect a lot of people.

9. Your ideal guy?

My husband, of course, and that’s the reason I’m married to him! He has been a great support to me, in my acting career, as well in all other activities. He understands me and he loves me. And, I love him, too.

10. Which living person do you most admire?

I would say my Dad. I truly appreciate the mentorship he gave me, from a young age, and the things we received from him

11. Which is your most treasured possession?

My family.

12. If you were marooned on a desert island, who would you like as your companion?

A camel would be ideal as that would make it easier for me to find a way out from a desert island!

13. Your most embarrassing moment?

One day, recently, with the greatest of difficulty, I managed to join a one meter distance queue, to withdraw money from an ATM. And, then I realised I didn’t bring the card along!

14. Done anything daring?

I would say…yes, when I ventured out to get involved in teledramas. It was a kind of a daring decision and I’m glad it’s now working out for me – beautifully.

15. Your ideal vacation?

I would say Thailand, after reading your articles, and talking to you about Amazing Thailand – the shopping, things to see and do, etc. When the scene improves, it will be…Thailand here I come!

16. What kind of music are you into?

The fast, rhythmic stuff because I have a kind of rhythm in my body, and I love to dance…to music.

17. Favourite radio station:

I don’t fancy any particular station. It all depends on the music they play. If it’s my kind of music, then I’m locked-on to that particular station.

18. Favourtie TV station:

Whenever I have some free time, I search the TV channels for a good programme. So it’s the programme that attracts me.

19. What would you like to be born as in your next life?

Maybe a bird so that I would be free to fly anywhere I want to.

20. Any major plans for the future?

I’m currently giving lessons to schoolchildren, in dancing, and I plan to have my own dancing institute in the future.

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Snail-napping sets the stage for CGI road trip



The SpongeBob Movie:Sponge on the Run

By Tharishi hewaviThanagamage

Based on the famous and one of the longest-running American animated series that made its debut on Nickelodeon in 1999, created by marine science educator and animator Stephen Hillenburg, ‘The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run’ is the latest addition to the SpongeBob movie franchise, coming in as the third installment after ‘The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie’ (2004) and ‘The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water’ (2015).

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