Editorial

EDITORIAL

BIMAN AIRCRAFT’S CRASH LANDING

We wish speedy recovery of injured passengers

Thankfully, there were no fatalities; though passengers and crew members on the Biman flight to Yangon sustained injuries on 8 May evening as the Bombardier Dash-8 Q400 aircraft skidded off the runway while landing in bad weather. None of them had life-threatening injuries; however one passenger had a leg and a hand broken. Of the injured 19, including an infant and six women, were taken to hospital in Yangon. Biman sent a plane to Myanmar to bring the passengers and crew members to Dhaka. The wreckage of the Bombardier Dash-8 Q400 with its fuselage crumpled and landing gears apparently collapsed. Biman authorities have formed a probe committee over the crash landing of its Dash-8 aircraft in Yangon.
Similar model of plane met with a tragedy on March 12 last year, when a US-Bangla Airway’s Bombardier Dash-8 Q400, of the same make and model involved in this incident, crashed on a football pitch near the runway of Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, killing 51 of the 71 people on board.
The US-Bangla plane crash on March 12 last year, in which 51 people were killed, brought to the fore some blood-curdling allegations from a number of pilots of compromising flight safety by private airlines. In their messages to the Daily Star on March 19, 2018, private airline pilots alleged how the private airlines in their bid to maximise profit allegedly overwork their pilots, send-off flights even when the rules don’t permit, or even sometimes hide defects because logging them would mean grounding of aircraft at a loss. The March 12 tragedy, in which at least 51 people— including 28 Bangladeshis— were killed as the US-Bangla Airlines aircraft crashed and burst into flames while landing at the Kathmandu airport in Nepal, appeared to have deeply unnerved the pilots. “It’s human lives that are at stake! This is what we pilots deal with every single day. The Daily Star talked with half a dozen pilots. None of them wanted to have their names revealed fear they would lose job and none of the allegations could be independently verified.
Expressed in privacy, their opinions and concerns should be discreetly assessed by the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) and the government before taking appropriate actions to address the grim issues. One pilot wrote: “The safety culture or truly speaking the ‘lack of it’ in private sector is simply outrageous!” He alleged that pilots are forced by management to operate in situations where it’s prudent not to fly. Maintaining flight schedule and commercial considerations take precedence over flight safety. [Vide ‘Pilots open up in private’, Daily Star March 19, 2018]
But since the nature of allegations coming from a variety of aviators is similar, those deserve special attention for the sake of passengers’ safety. “There was no permission to fly from tower for low visibility. A phone call came [from the head office] moments after I declined to fly the plane to Chittagong. I was shouted at and told to take off on the dot,” he told this newspaper. A seasoned pilot of Biman Bangladesh Airlines wrote: “I’ve heard many harrowing stories from our first officers who were in the private sector before. Even if there are some exaggerations, even if I consider only 25 percent of what they say is true, it is alarming.”[Ibid]
In late 2016, Biman suffered two incidents which, if conditions were unfavorable, could have been catastrophic. In December, a Boeing-737 from Oman to Chittagong had a ruptured tire during take-off, which was only discovered once the aircraft was in the air. A series of probe reports followed, which saw nine Biman Bangladesh employees arrested for negligence of duty. A pilot’s work hours are eight hours a day, but most pilots work overtime because private airlines lack skilled crew. But while remaining anonymous, they maintain their accusation that for the airlines profits are the bigger concern. Besides, Passengers on domestic flights in Bangladesh are intimately familiar with delays caused by technical or mechanical problems of the aircraft. [Vide kathryn’s-report.com/2018/03, based in Prescott, Arizona, United States.]
In March last the Anti-Corruption Commission has “identified” sources of irregularities and corruption in Biman Bangladesh Airlines and the Civil Aviation Authority. It says “huge corruption” takes place in procurement and lease of aircraft and purchase of machinery claiming that corruption worth “tens of millions of takas” happened involving aircraft maintenance and purchase of repair tools. Cargo service is a big source of Biman’s income, but the airlines is getting “tens of millions of Taka less” in airway bills due to “uncontrolled” corruption in this area. Biman officials embezzle money by not submitting fees paid by passengers for extra luggage, the anti-graft agency found. The ACC has recommended action by the secretaries to the cabinet and civil aviation to block the sources of corruption. [Vide ACC recommends action after ‘identifying’ sources of corruption at Biman, CAAB; bdnews24.com 04 Mar 2019.]
The airline faces a litany of corruption allegations for most related sectors, such as cargo transport, aircraft leasing, and ticket sales. The reported corruption could be a major reason the national carrier was not profitable in the previous fiscal year. Biman’s former London country manager allegedly embezzled Tk160 million from the sale of 2,500 tickets. State Minister for Tourism and Aviation, Md Mahbub Ali, said, “Legal action will be taken against those who are involved in corruption.Those involved with corruption in Biman Bangladesh Airline will not be spared.” [Vide ‘Why is Biman marred by a litany of corruption?’ Dhaka Tribune, Dated April 14th, 2019]
While we wish speedy recovery of the injured passengers and crew members, thank the pilot for landing without fatality in an adverse weather, we hope the national flag carrier Biman will live up to the people’s expectations.

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