In another case of mismanagement, Biman has been forced to ground two leased Boeings from EgyptAir at a cost of Tk200 crore that was supposed to resume the Dhaka-New York flights in 2014.
The two Boeing 777 200 ER aircraft were leased for five years. One of them has now been grounded for five months because of engine failure and another is fully non-operational.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of the United States of America warned Biman to replace its ageing DC-10s by December 2005 or be refused entry to it's airspace. In 2006 The FAA officially graded Biman a category-2 aircraft carrier, meaning it does not meet the safety standards and cancelled all incoming Biman flights.
Since EgyptAir falls under FAA category-1, Biman authorities decided to lease the two aircraft from them.
A Biman engineer said soon after the lease the two aircraft were grounded at least 25 times including being grounded at Frankfurt, Germany twice because of engine failure.
“Biman authorities did not consider the national interest when they signed the lease.
“When they went to Egypt to inspect the aircraft, the two planes were not in the best of conditions. A private airline had also flown to Egypt for the same reason but returned without leasing them because of their condition.
“Biman authorities however decided to lease them knowing fully well the planes were close to being non-operational. Why they decided to lease them anyway is beyond comprehension,” said a Biman official requesting anonymity.
Sources at Biman said the planes began to fall apart soon after arriving in Dhaka. Within a year, both the engines on the Boeings stopped working. In 2015, Biman then leased engines from another company for Tk13 lakh daily that also stopped working.
Biman has been losing Tk1 crore every day, from not flying these planes. The financial loss keeps mounting over these two planes—as the lease expires in February, 2019 and Biman cannot recover the cost and these planes will most likely be grounded till 2019, according to a Biman source.
The lease costs Biman Tk5 crore monthly and it stipulates that Biman return the aircraft back to EgyptAir in the same condition that they were leased in. Any and all maintenance cost will be borne by Biman.
“At this point these planes are not serviceable at all, but because Biman cannot return the planes before the lease expires it will cost us several crores just to repair them with the same functionality there were given to us,” said a mid level Biman officer, requesting anonymity.
Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) is also investigating this case of mismanagement. Syed Iqbal Hossain, a director of ACC visited the Biman headquarters to figure out the motive behind leasing non-operational planes for five years, said the Biman official.
General Manager (PR) of Biman Shakil Meraj told the Dhaka Tribune that the engine of the leased aircraft has been repaired by the leasing company and they are also in the process of repairing the rest of the aircraft.
He said they were hopeful that planes would be operational by July this year, an opinion that Biman ground staff contradicts.