“We have a lack of training facilities. During the recent VVIP flight, technical staff noticed the glitch in front of us. Even our chief engineer does not have licence to inspect particular VVIP flights,” the minister said.
Menon was speaking at a seminar titled “Challenges and prospects of local airlines in the aviation sector” held at the Pan Pacific Sonargaon Hotel in Dhaka. The seminar was organised by the daily Bonik Barta in association with Novoair. Dewan Hanif Mahmud, editor of Bonik Barta, conducted the seminar.
According to Menon, the government is planning to establish an aviation university in the near future after having considered the recent emergency landing of the PM's flight.
The minister said the information found by the investigation committee was alarming. Their report said that most of the Biman engineers entered into the jobs immediately after completing SSC examinations. Even the chief engineer of Biman is simply a technician.
Security officials of President Abdul Hamid also caught a technician red-handed while he was washing the wing of an aircraft with flammable liquid on December 10. The aircraft was supposed to go to Singapore to bring back the president.
Regarding this incident, Menon said: “I do not know anything about it. No one from Biman or the Civil Aviation Authority Bangladesh informed me about it.”
Biman General Manager Shakil Meraj said trained pilots were also in short supply.
“The national flag carrier is suffering from a shortage of pilots as we do not have pilots to operate Dash 8 Q400 and Boeing 787 planes. If we cannot train pilots to fly the 787, Biman will have to hire foreign pilots with high salaries.”
The aviation minister also mentioned initiatives to lengthen Cox's Bazar Airport's runway from 9,000 to 10,500 feet, so that wide-bodied aircraft can land there easily, and the addition of a third terminal to Shahjalal International Airport, set to be completed by 2019.
US-Bangla Airlines CEO Imran Asif stressed that private airlines need a timeline from the CAAB for developments, so that they can plan accordingly.
“Otherwise, we cannot move ahead in the aviation industry,” he said.
Aviation expert Kazi Wahidul Alam was critical of the business strategies employed by private airlines, saying their over ambition fostered unhealthy competition, which has resulted in early shut downs of some airlines.
“We need to increase the capability of the local airlines. Unfortunately, the national carrier has not produced manpower in the aviation industry in the last 45 years,” he said.
Biman's former managing director Dr MA Momen said airlines also face difficulty competing with foreign counterparts due to fuel prices. While the cost of fuel per litre is $1.40 in Delhi, $0.94 in Kuala Lumpur, and $1.33 in China, it is $2.50 in Dhaka.
“If we cannot address the high fuel price, no airlines will survive in this country”, Momen said.