Vol. 5 Num 512 Wed. November 02, 2005  
Letters to Editor

Biman's obsolete planes

After a long delay, Biman Bangladesh Airlines is gearing up to upgrade its wide-bodied aircraft fleet with brand-new Boeing and Airbus aircrafts. According to various media reports, the Board of Directors has approved a plan to purchase four Airbus 330-200 and four Boeing 777-200ERs to replace its ageing fleet of DC-10 and A310 aircraft. Unfortunately, this decision is over a decade overdue and as a result when these brand new aircrafts enter service with Biman, they will be obsolete already.

Recently, Biman launched a massive public relations campaign to inform everyone how "old" and "unsafe" Barman's aircrafts are. Some of the Biman's aircrafts might be outdated and unreliable, but not all of them are "old". Biman had purchased three brand new aircrafts directly from the manufacturer since its formation in January 1972. The first purchase was a DC-10-30 in 1989 which was followed by two Airbus 310-300s in 1996. Biman's DC-10 was the last passenger DC-10-30 off the production line at California and only three more 310s were produced by Airbus SAS after Biman took delivery of the aircrafts.

A commercial jet has a useful life-cycle of roughly thirty years. However, after utilizing them for only one third of their useful commercial life, Biman is now forced to replace them due to their inefficiency and unreliability compared to new generation aircrafts. Regrettably, Biman's management is repeating history again. As airlines around the world are gearing up to replace their current fleet of 330-200's and 777-200ER with new generations of aircrafts like the 787 and 350, Biman is placing fresh orders for them.

Biman's management is arguing that it needs new aircraft as soon as possible and they do not have time to wait for new aircrafts like the Airbus 350. The reality is manufacturers can deliver new generation aircrafts like the 787/350 around 2009 compared to the 2007 delivery date for 330/777. It might be difficult for Biman to wait two extra years for newer aircrafts but it will save Biman hundreds of millions of dollars over the next thirty years.

Purchasing a fleet of long-range aircrafts is a very expensive and complex process with significant long term implications. The current fleet renewal proposal will cost Biman about a billion dollar to implement. It is vital for a small airline like Biman to make the right decisions in order to survive in today's world. Any wrong decision will influence Biman's balance sheet for the next three decades. The government needs to stop interfering with Biman's management in order for them to make the right decisions. In addition, the management has to stop depending on government assistance and start relying on company balance sheets if they want Biman to survive in the competitive aviation business.