National flag carrier Biman Bangladesh Airlines is planning to appoint fresh pilots for the smooth operation of its flights.
“At a recent meeting, we’ve discussed the issue and asked Biman to appoint fresh pilots for its fleet,” Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Rashed Khan Menon told UNB.
“Local pilots will be our main choice for the national flag carrier and I’ve told the Biman authorities about it,” he added.
Biman last recruited pilots four years ago in 2010.
The matter has come in the limelight as the national flag carrier now plans to recruit 12 more foreign pilots to operate hajj flights.
A Biman official said a plan, authenticated by KPMG, a global network of professional firms, and the Institute of Business Administration of Dhaka University, advised Biman to recruit six pilots after every six months or at least 10 pilots a year to cope with the shortage of pilots.
Currently, Biman has four 777-300ERs, two 777-200 ERs, two 737-800s, and two A310-300s aircraft in its fleet.
Every Boeing 777 requires seven sets of pilots. Each set is composed of a captain and a copilot or first officer. That means to operate the all the six 777s in the Biman fleet it needs 42 captains and 42 copilots or first officers.
But, as per the information from Biman, it now has 49 pilots. Of the total number, 24 are captains and 25 first officers. Among the captains, nine are foreigners, while of the first officers there are two foreigners, but with Bangladesh origin.
Adding to the woe, Biman has sent its experienced pilots on retirement at the age of 57 when government service rules put the retirement age at 59.
Besides, Biman is hiring foreign pilots for almost double the salary of local pilots to deal with the crisis. In some cases, it has hired foreign pilots who were above the age of 57. Due to the shortage of pilots, Biman cannot utilise its potentials of having six 777s in its fleet, according to the Biman sources.
“The airliners that has six 777s, four of them new, must not incur loss if the carrier can operate its aircraft properly and wisely,” a former Biman board member told UNB.
On April 22, 2008, Biman Bangladesh Airlines Ltd signed the final deal with US plane-maker Boeing to procure eight new-generation aircraft—four 777-300ERs and four 787-8s. The deal also included an option on purchasing the rights of buying four more planes—two 777-300ERs and two 787-8s.
On the same day, the national flag carrier signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the plane-maker to procure two 737-800 aircraft. The MoU also has the option on purchasing the rights of buying two more 737-800s.
Boeing has so far delivered four 777-300ERs. It will hand over the two 737-800 aircraft by November and December next year and pre-delivery payments for those two aircraft have already been made.
The four 787-8s were scheduled to be handed over in between 2019 and 2020, which means Biman is in dire need of pilots capable for flying Boeing aircraft, the sources added.