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Dhaka Tribune

2C in daily losses estimated as Biman airliner grounded for 5 months in Italy

  • Engineering directorate accused of mismanagement
  • Aircraft supposed to stay in Italy for 60 days
Update : 17 Jan 2024, 10:13 PM

The Boeing 777-3E9ER aircraft with registration number S2-AFO, one of Biman’s highest earners, has remained grounded for a D check for over five months in Italy owing to alleged mismanagement by the Engineering and Material Management Directorate of the airline, causing financial loss to the tune of around Tk2 crore per day.

D checks are comprehensive inspections and repairs of an entire aircraft in line with a maintenance program provided by the manufacturer.

The package is prepared by a maintenance organization and approved by the national aviation authority, the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) in this instance.

According to sources familiar with the matter, these are some specific job cards for inspection, repair and replacement in a D check work package.

Going against that work package, the engineering directorate of Biman Bangladesh Airlines and the Italian company Atitech signed a D check completion agreement after the floating of a tender.

Crores in losses

Following the agreed schedule, the 777 flew on August 14 to Atitech’s hangar for 60 days for fuel tank and body repairs as well as engine hardcover strength recovery.

Forty-five days were reserved for a D check and the rest for total aircraft exterior painting.

The 60-day period ended on November 1 and the Biman authorities have yet to bring it back. Moreover, the national flag carrier is planning to send another aircraft for a D check at Atitech.

Biman officials declined to comment when asked when the aircraft might return.

It should be noted that within Biman’s fleet, Boeing-777s–operated on profitable Middle East-bound routes–are the largest revenue earners.

The marketing department said each of these aircraft could carry over 800 passengers and transport 100 tons of cargo on a round trip.

Owing to the alleged inefficiency and mismanagement of the engineering directorate, Biman lost more than Tk300 crore between August 14 and January 16, averaging out to more than Tk2 crore per day, according to marketing department estimates.

Biman also initially engaged some non-aircraft maintenance engineers to resolve the issue instead of those who have AME licences and are experienced in D checks.

Meanwhile, the couple of AMEs who did go there had to return before starting work due to their travel period reaching the deadline, according to the official order.

Around 15 officials visited Italy over this issue, including engineers with AME licences Md Zakir Hossain and Milon Chandra Biswas, principal engineer (acting) SM Rokonuzzaman, Assistant Manager Shahjahan Siraj and Planning Supervisor Shafiqul Islam Bulbul, travelling to the country by Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines and Emirates at the end of August for 15 days.

Later on December 26, Deputy Chief Engineer (base maintenance) Md Billal Hossain went to Italy for 60 days, and Engineering Directorate Manager (planning) Anwarul Alam, Engineer Officer (B2) Roise Uddin, Engineer Officer (B1) Hasan Ali Sikdar and Junior Officer (tools store) for five days.

Chief Engineer (production) ARM Kaiser Zaman and Chief Engineer (quality assurance) Ali Naser led the team.

Notably, Kaiser Zaman was sued by the Anti-Corruption Commission over a scam related to leasing out aircraft to EgyptAir and is the key accused in a case over the leak of questions in a Biman exam.

Biman Board of Directors Chairman Mostafa Kamal Uddin and Company Secretary (additional charge) Rashed Meher Chowdhury travelled to Italy for eight days from September 28 to October 5–with all expenses borne by Biman–to hold a meeting with Atitech, according to an official letter.

However, the senior officials did not take any noticeable steps in this regard, the engineering directorate claimed.

Neither the civil aviation ministry nor Biman responded to comment about the trip. 

After their visit, the Italian company apparently told Biman that it needed another part for repair work, saying it was different from the one listed in Boeing’s documents, while the manufacturer claimed it had sent the necessary parts.

The Italian company also allegedly did not allow Biman engineers to assess how it was carrying out the aircraft D check, according to sources.

Five months on, the aircraft is practically in the same condition as it was in when it went for repairs, according to the engineering department.

When asked whether Biman would seek compensation from Atitech for not completing the work under the terms of the contract, Air Commodore Moazzem Hossain, director of engineering and material management at Biman, said the airline would take the necessary steps under international law based on the agreement.

Biman CEO Shafiul Azim did not respond to Dhaka Tribune’s request for comments.

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