The private airline United Airways Bangladesh Ltd has been operating flights despite some safety flaws, posing risks to passengers, say officials of the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh.
Through an inspection in June this year, Caab detected eight safety flaws that include shortage of experts for maintaining some of the airline's aircraft.
Caab also found that its pilots on the Dhaka-Muscat-Dhaka route did not get adequate layover, which could cause fatigue in them and eventually lead to a disaster, said the officials.
According to the rules, a pilot's daily duty time is 14 hours, including the highest 11 hours in terms of flying time. But the duty time of United Airways pilots sometimes crosses 14 hours, they added.
Referring to the Caab findings, they said United Airways ran a major check on its MD-83 aircraft though it did not have the required number of experts for the task.
United Airways neither informed Caab about the test nor followed its own policy approved by Caab for conducting internal inspections.
Moreover, the airline has not been maintaining some of its aircraft properly as instructed by the manufacturers. And it did not properly preserve some parts of its two MD-83 aircraft that had remained grounded, said Caab officials.
Wishing anonymity, a top Caab official said the airline had fallen short of engineers necessary for maintaining its MD-83s, but it did not go for any recruitment.
The shortage of engineers is putting a heavy workload on the airline's staff, who may suffer from fatigue, according to the official.
United Airways, however, told The Daily Star that it had already corrected some of the flaws found in the inspection, and was working to fix the rest.
Questions were raised about the airline's aircraft maintenance and safety standards after the nose gear of one of its ATR-72 aircraft collapsed upon landing at Cox's Bazar Airport on July 20.
Though there were faults in the nose gear, they had not been corrected, apparently leading to the collapse, said a source with knowledge of the primary investigation into the incident.
The flight from Dhaka with 43 passengers and crew on board narrowly averted a disaster.
In August 2012, an ATR-72 aircraft of the airline narrowly escaped a crash on a domestic route after a part of its windshield blew away in mid-air at an altitude of 9,000 feet. The co-pilot was seriously injured in the incident.
Caab recently went tough on the private airline and decided not to renew its Air Operator Certificate (AOC), mandatory for airlines for operating flights, until it corrected the safety flaws.
In a letter to United Airways on June 26, Caab said it would not renew the airline's AOC because of safety flaws and dues amounting to Tk 84.19 crore.
However, the airline has been given a temporary AOC following a High Court order. The HC asked Caab to temporarily renew the AOC and also directed the airline to rectify the safety flaws by August 29.
Caab officials said United Airways had corrected some of the flaws under tremendous pressure from the regulator.
“Our inspection came up with eight major findings. Things were not up to the mark. Caab is now monitoring the airline continuously. No leniency will be shown from now on,” Caab Director (Flight Safety and Regulation) Nazmul Anam told The Daily Star.
“We are doing it all for the safety of passengers and the airline,” he said.
Md Kamrul Islam, assistant general manager (marketing support and public relations) of United Airways, said the regulator conducts inspections as part of regular monitoring. It sometimes finds safety flaws and the airlines always corrects those.
“We have already rectified some of the problems that came up in the audit findings. We are working to fix the rest within the deadline given by the court,” he told this correspondent recently.
About the Cox's Bazar incident, he said a probe team from the aircraft manufacturer would come to Dhaka soon to pinpoint the cause of the gear's collapse.
United Airways, the largest among the country's four private airlines, operates on six international routes and seven domestic routes with a fleet of 11 aircraft.
The other three are Novo Air, Regent Airways and US-Bangla Airlines.