SriLankan Airlines recently marked a significant milestone in the country’s aviation history when captain Anusha Siriratne was appointed as the national carrier’s first lady captain.
Manoj Gunawardena, the airline’s CEO, said, “Our heartiest congratulations to capt. Anusha Siriratne. This is a significant event for the national carrier. Sri Lanka has been in the forefront of women’s empowerment, and it is certainly high time that a Sri Lankan woman took command of an airliner.”
Interestingly, capt. Anusha and her husband capt. Hemantha Siriratne also made history as the first husband-wife pilot duo in the country. Capt. Hemantha received his captain’s appointment earlier this year.
Captain Anusha is modest about her appointment and brushed off her achievement, which had been her childhood ambition.
“Women have lagged behind in the field of aviation in Sri Lanka, in comparison to the rest of the world. Even in neighboring countries such as India, women have been airline captains for many years now,” she said.
“It doesn’t make a difference whether you are a man or a woman when flying. The circumstances don’t change, the weather is the same, and the aircraft doesn’t know the difference!” she said.
Capt. Druvi Perera, acting senior manager flight operations, said, “Every pilot at SriLankan is elated at this achievement. We now have several more female first officers in the fleet and hope to see them in command in a few years.”
Pradeepa Dahanayake, head of human resources, said, “SriLankan has long been in the forefront of equal opportunity for women in this country, and capt. Anusha’s appointment places the national carrier once more in the limelight.”
SriLankan has several lady managers in senior positions in most of its nine divisions. It also has women in areas that have traditionally been dominated by men, such as aircraft engineering.
Capt. Anusha also manages her career and her role as a mother very well – her daughter Anika is now five. She took a year off from flying when Anika was born.
“It’s been my dream to be a captain one day. I’ve been very fortunate to have come up to this point, and my husband and parents have been wonderfully supportive of my career. All the instructors, pilots and staff of the flight operations division have also been very helpful,” she said.
Capt. Anusha joined SriLankan as a cadet pilot in June 1998. She served as a second officer on the Lockheed L1011 Tristar fleet and in 1999 was promoted to first officer. At the time, the airline was phasing out its aging Tristars with the advent of the all-Airbus fleet, and she became a first officer on the A320’s, A330’s and A340’s, flying to cities throughout SriLankan’s network of destinations in Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
A past student of Holy Family Convent, Bambalapitiya and of Ladies College, she obtained her private pilot’s license at CDE Aviation, and her commercial pilot’s license in Texas. Prior to joining the National Carrier, she had a short stint as an instructor at Sky Cabs in Ratmalana.