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Biman's viability at stake
CAPT. A. MUZAFFAR
Read in a national daily on May 27, 004 that Biman has procured two 27 years old F-28 twin- jet aircraft from Indonesia. These aircraft are out of production over eighteen years ago and the company also gone on liquidation since then. One fails to understand as to why Biman is going for these junks by paying an excessive price of US $ 2.91 million. Its resale value will not be even $ 1.5ml. Because these aircraft are not fit to fly at this stage, no civil aviation technical evaluation team was sent for checking its airworthy status and 75% money have been paid in advance to make it flyable which is never heard of in any aircraft purchase deal. The condition of the aircraft is such, as experienced from similar two aircraft purchased by previous Govt., that the pilots themselves are scared to fly those very old machines in the mountainous area of Katmandu. If the pilots themselves are apprehensive of the safety of the aircrafts, then why the passengers will risk their life to fly by the same unsafe machine. The two very old aircraft Biman purchased from Indonesian Hiebert Group Ltd. Not a known company in the aviation market. Expecting Engine failures in the near future and overhauled engine not being readily available in the market, Biman has already floated tender offering a high price of $525000 per engine. This gives an indication that the maintenance burden will be huge to keep on flying these junks. It is supposed that the Indonesian company made a huge profit by the sale of these two unmarketable obsolete aircraft.
This Govt. took on wet-lease (aircraft with operating crew), two Boeing 737-300 from a company of Singapore at a very high rate per hour of flying. Biman operated those two aircraft for over a year and made this poor Airline lose a huge amount in foreign currency. If those aircraft were taken on dry- lease i.e. only the aircraft and not the crew, with a set of training pilot for 3 months only to convert our pilots. Also keep one or two maintenance Engineers to give support to our aircraft engineers for day- to- day normal maintenance. Then the lease rate would have been much less. Because; the salary and allowances of Singapore crew is much higher than our pilots and engineers. Some one must have made a fortune from this unusual lease agreement at the cost of Biman.
Instead of buying two very old F-28 aircraft, Biman should have procured two Boeing 737-300 aircraft 7 to 10 years old on lease-purchase basis on five years purchase term. The cash flow requirement would have been much less. In the lease purchase for five years payment contract Biman had to pay only one tenth of the calculated price of the aircraft initially and then pay every six months by flying those aircraft on pay-as- you earn basis. This system has another advantage that is; at any time Biman wants to go for a better or bigger type of airliner, in that case Biman could return the machine without any compensation to the seller. Singapore Airlines, Thy Airways, Cathay Pacific Airlines etc always procure their Airliner by lease purchase system though financially those airlines are very sound. The seat-mile cost of B737-300 is much less than F-28, which can carry only 85 passengers. Whereas; B737-300 airliner, can carry 130 passenger, in two- class configuration to a distance of about 1400 miles. The aircraft could have given back-up support to our Airbus routes. The airliner could not operate to short airfields like Rajshahi, Biman should surrender this sector to any private Airline of Bangladesh, as-it-is the passenger on this sector is 12 to 15 per flight, after opening of the Jamuna bridge.
Another disadvantage of F-28 aircraft, that it has very little luggage space. As a result the passengers coming from Middle East and U.K etc. cannot take their luggage with them when they go to their home district like Sylhet, Jessore, Chittagong by F-28 aircraft for short of cargo space in the aircraft.
Those luggage, are sent by land route by Bus or Truck, some time it takes a week and there are problem of pilferage.
It is reported that no fleet planning study was done before finalizing the purchase; of these two very old F-28 from an unknown company of Indonesia. All these blunder happening in running of our national Airline, because it is totally managed by the Aviation Ministry and not by the Biman management, though it to be an Autonomous organization. Also in the Board of Directors there are not a single Aviation or Business experienced person to run it on commercial point of view.
Another sad news came in The Bangladesh Monitor that Phuket Airline one of the Thailand's leading airline started operation from May 20, 004 Bangkok - Chittagong-Dubai with Boeing747-200 aircraft with 16 seats in Business Class and 426 seats in Economy Class total 442 configuration on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, thrice a week.
It is understood that the new Airline will sweep away all the potential Middle East bound passengers of Biman for two reasons one B747-200 is a bigger four Engine spacious aircraft more attractive to passengers also its operating cost per passenger mile is much less than old DC10-30 type of airliner of Biman. Also the Phuket Airline will be able to undercut their ticket more than Biman. To be compatible with the Phuket Air, Biman should, without delay must procure either B747 or better type of Airliner.
It is reported that Kuwait Airways is offering Biman two Boeing 747-200 aircraft free of cost as gift and Biman is reluctant to accept those two aircraft on a lame excuse that it is not fitted with same type of engine as our DC10-30, which is CF 6-50. Any one who has some knowledge about Airline business knows that it is not at all a problem.
The type of engine fitted with the Kuwaiti B747 aircraft can be changed and fitted with the type Biman interested.0
The engine of Kuwaiti aircraft can be bartered with the new type with any engine dealer at a nominal cost. Only disadvantage will be that no agent will get any commission to share with some one else.