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In a Moon's Course ....

The Barefoot Pilot: Paulis Appuhamy

Rating: 2 votes, 5.00 average.
(Based on an article by Roger Theiderman in the Sunday Times of Sri Lanka)

Sri Lanka, or Ceylon as it was called at the time, gained independence from British rule in 1948. 1952 was the last year of office of its first Prime Minister, D. S. Senanayake. It was still a country steeped in the decades of the colonial ‘norms’ and recreational aviation there was the pastime of the elite, or a certain ‘class’ of society.

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Approaching the Puttalam Lagoon

So in August that year when a middle-aged Ceylonese named Paulis Appuhamy turned up at the flying club at Ratmalana Airport south of Colombo, he was something of an anomaly. Dressed in traditional attire including a sarong, his hair long and bundled in a traditional knot called a konde he spoke no English - but he wanted to learn to fly. Something about Paulis must have caught the attention of the duty flying instructor, who took him for an introductory flight in a Tiger Moth before passing him on to two flying instructors who spoke Sinhalese, Captain C.H.S. Amarasekera, and Captain Susantha ('Sus') Jayasekera.

Paulis Appuhamy owned a business, a bus line inherited from his father that he had developed into a thriving operation. He may not have fitted the social clique of the flying club (which had doubts about a non-English speaking local learning to fly) but he had the passion, financial means, technical skills and determination to do so. On October 5, 1953 he earned his Private Pilot license.

Paulis flew for a further two years, maintaining his license until sometime in1955. His health later deteriorated and he passed away in 1973. He was perhaps the first pilot to learn to fly in a sarong and use bare feet on the rudder bar; the first to challenge through tenacity and personality the social prejudice about what constituted ‘a suitable member’ of a flying club in Sri Lanka at the time.

Allan Jones
[email protected]
http://moonscourse.blogspot.ca

Allan Jones is the author of In a Moon’s Course, an ebook of World War II flight stories/plans of the Air Transport Auxiliary, available at ebook online suppliers.

The Flight.
Route: VCCC D107J CA VC15

Paulis learned to fly in a Tiger Moth but around 1953 the club also acquired a de Havilland DHC-1 ‘Chipmunk’ . Paulis took his son on pleasure flights in the club aircraft and once got lost in the Chipmunk, landing at the Puttalam (Palavi) airfield and causing some consternation when he was overdue at Ratmalana. This route heads up to Puttalam but as there is no landing strip there in FSX or FS9, I cut inland to land at Sigiraya airport. I used the default Cessna 172 rather than load another aircraft into my system, but there are Chipmunks available in the Flightsim library.

The route will steer you clear of Bandaranaike International Airport (which didn’t exist in 1953) , give you a nice view of the Indian Ocean coastline and take you up to the massive Puttalam lagoon before turning inland to the airfield at Sigiraya.

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Comments

  1. bavarello's Avatar
    Ciao,
    I accidentally came across your article, it is a story of what I wanted to live or see in movies. The passion for flight brings you to fly even in bare feet !!!!
    Thank you for your contribution to my passion.
    Giovanni
  2. allanj12's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by bavarello
    Ciao,
    I accidentally came across your article, it is a story of what I wanted to live or see in movies. The passion for flight brings you to fly even in bare feet !!!!
    Thank you for your contribution to my passion.
    Giovanni
    You are welcome! Enjoy the other 'aviation history and flightsim' stories in my blog.