THE DAILY STAR
Pilots refuse to fly old F28s to Nepal
Say aircraft unsafe in icy Himalayan conditions
Pilots of Biman's F28 aircraft have been refusing to fly the aging planes to the Nepalese capital of Kathmandu since Sunday, citing frequent technical breakdown in icy conditions during flight over the mountainous region.
"We cannot risk the lives of passengers as it often happens that one of the engines would stop functioning when the anti-ice gear is used," said an F28 co-pilot yesterday seeking anonymity.
Sources said Biman currently has eight pilots including three captains to operate its three F28 aircraft, but most pilots were not provided the special training required to fly over the hilly terrain of Nepal, which is some 4000 feet above sea level. Also, one of the captains is currently on leave.
Captain Nasimul Hoque, president of Bangladesh Airline Pilots Association, alleged that the in spite of the danger, Biman management is trying to force the F28 pilots into operating the hazardous flights to Nepal.
However, Captain Kamal Mahmood, director of Biman's flight operations, said the F28s are airworthy. "We have got clearance from engineers that the planes are safe, but pilots are still refusing to fly. Currently, there is a shortage of captains for the F28s, but we have eight cadet pilots now undergoing training."
Sources said the pilots' boycott is a protest against Biman's move to procure two obsolete F28s from Indonesia, adding such a move shows poor business strategy on the part of Biman given that other airlines are phasing out the outdated planes.
Biman operates four weekly flights to the Himalayan kingdom and plans to raise the number to seven from next month.
Apart from the F28s, two leased Boeing 737s are also being used to service the Dhaka-Katmandu route. But the national carrier will likely find it hard to maintain flight schedule as the 737s will no longer be available from April 30 on expiry of the lease agreement.
Now even the pilots don´t trust their F28s anymore...
In my opinion it´s very important to think of passenger safety first, so I can understand their decisions.