Sunday, July 23, 2017

Biman Bangladesh Airlines: Airbus aircraft to be sold as scrap

The aircraft have proven to be white elephants for the national flag carrier

After spending a fortune on maintaining two grounded aircraft, Biman Bangladesh Airlines is now forced to sell them for scraps after nobody expressed any interest in buying them whole.

The two Airbus A310-300 aircraft bought at Tk250cr each could be sold at one-tenth of their buying price after local buyers dismantle them up and take them to Dholaikhal for scraps.

The aircraft were bought in 1990 after Biman’s lease on them expired. Afterwards, Biman added two more Airbus 310s to the fleet.

Airbus had ceased the manufacturing of the 310 series in 1998 because of its fuel inefficiency and expensive spare parts. It had been in production for 25 years after its initiation in 1983.

The aircraft have proven to be white elephants for Biman, as it has had to bear all fees – ground handling, maintenance, fuel, etc without ever seeing any of it put to good use.

Using the fuel-guzzling Airbus aircraft has been nothing short of a nightmare for Biman. In 2007, one of the 310s failed to take off from Dubai airport and crashed into the runway nose-first. Although no casualties were reported, the aircraft was written off.

Another Biman Airbus failed to take off from Changi airport in Singapore and spent two months there racking up sky-high bills.

In January 2014, a severe crack was found on the body of the third Biman Airbus.

Rearing these grounded jets has been baffling and now, embarrassing for Biman, to say the least. The embarrassment is sevenfold as Biman has not been able to find any buyer who would buy the aircraft intact.

Air Marshal Enamul Bari (retd), chairman of the board of directors of Biman, said: “We do not have any other option but to phase out the two aircraft because of their derelict condition and high fuel consumption.”

Also of note, the two aircraft being sold have been neglected in their maintenance and surgically gutted by smugglers, hence ensuring they fetch a lower price. They have been out of service since 2015 because of their excessive fuel consumption and an abject lack of spare parts.

Local businessmen who have expressed any interest in buy the aircraft have only done so because the prospect of stripping the aircraft down and buying them piece by piece is a lot more cost-efficient.

An official of the national flag-carrier airline, requesting anonymity, told the Dhaka Tribune that each aircraft will be dismantled into three segments and then sold off. The spare parts will be sold off first, followed by the engine and lastly the landing gear.

Biman sources claimed the parties interested in buying the aircraft want to rip the planes apart and then take them to Dholaikhal – notorious for its reverse engineering facilities – a deal which Biman agreed to out of desperation.

But Biman officials have said that the aircraft will be disassembled and sold part by part because the gates of Shahjalal Int’l Airport is too small for the aircraft to be hauled out.

According to media reports, Biman’s past venture in selling off old aircraft have been less than stellar. A DC-10 aircraft bought at Tk300cr was sold for slightly more than Tk2cr.

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