Biman modifies old DC-10s to keep them flying

Dhaka, November 8:

Biman Bangladesh Airlines, the national flag carrier, is modifying its old sky horse, DC-10, to meet a US ban and keep flying despite money crunch.

The first of the five DC-10s it has, undergoing what is called Thrust Reverser Enhancement Modification (TREM), would be ready next month.

The other four would undergo the same in phases at a total cost of $2.8 million, News Today newspaper reported today.

Due to serious resource crunch and the government’s unwillingness to make funds available, Biman is struggling to keep its schedules and has curtailed flying on some routes.

The US banned its flights for aviation security reasons earlier this year, ending a

lucrative route and affecting movements of thousands of Bangladeshis from and to North America.

Its fleet has been reduced to 13 - five DC-10s having 274 seats each, four mid-haul Airbus A-310-300s and four F-28s.

Only 11 are operational for donmestic and international flying.

Plans to acquire new generation aircraft were shelved after the government refused to grant any more loans, but offered to ‘arrange’ some from commercial banks to meet day-to-day expenses.

Accumulating losses over the years, the airline lost taka 2.8 billion last year alone due to rising fuel bill and mismanagement.

Quoting unnamed Biman sources, the News Today newspaper reported that though Biman has overcome the schedules crisis that it faced recently, other problems such as funds crunch, shortage of aircraft, mismanagement, and corruption by a section of officials and employees are still eating into the very vitals of the state-owned carrier.

The sources said Biman is not in a position to run its operation smoothly on different international and domestic routes at this moment.

It is currently serving 25 international and seven domestic routes with the 13 ageing aircraft.

They said the government took a move to purchase new generation aircraft for Biman to replace the ageing DC-10 for streamlining its flight operation, but it finally abandoned the plan, leaving the airline in a hopeless situation.

A Biman source said the government, “fed up with the performance of the airline, does not want to inject any funds into Biman. Rather, it now prefers a strategic partner for the airline.”

However, such partners are not forthcoming. Talks with Thai, Singapore and some airlines based in the Gulf have not led to any progress.