Anomalies in hiring: Resentment runs rife among Biman pilots
"Flights operated by the recently recruited incompetent pilots might be at risk of accidents."
Alleged anomalies in Biman's recent recruitment of pilots have stirred resentment as well as concerns over flight safety among the pilots of the airline.
In February this year, Biman Bangladesh Airlines recruited 14 pilots -- eight captains and six first officers (FO) -- for the four Boeing 777s in its fleet.
It all came to the fore after several media reports and aviation officials alleged how the recruitment was done in flagrant violation of the national flag carrier's rules and procedure.
In a letter to the Biman MD and CEO, Bangladesh Airlines Pilot Association (BAPA) yesterday demanded that the authorities thoroughly investigate the "irregularities" in the recent recruitments.
Earlier on April 4, the Prime Minister's Office sent a letter to the civil aviation and tourism ministry, asking it to investigate the recent hiring of "controversial" and "underqualified" people as pilots and co-pilots.
An investigation report by an intelligence agency, highlighting "irregularities" in the hiring process, was attached to the letter.
The recruitment, according to the investigation, did not follow the rules and procedure that Biman has had in place for years.
The airline has ignored its own resources and appointed pilots from other airlines, most of whom were either sacked or denied promotions due to a lack of skills, the report observed.
As such, it added, specific conditions and requirements mentioned in the job circular were violated when the new pilots were recruited.
Biman had published the circular for the new recruitments in November last year.
Of the eight new captains, only two have the experience of flying an aircraft for the number of hours necessary to operate a Boeing 777.
The report also said the FOs recruited were not skilled or efficient enough for the post.
"Flights operated by the recently recruited incompetent pilots might be at risk of accidents,"the report warned.
The Daily Star has recently spoken to several senior pilots of BAPA.
They said such gross anomalies in the recruitment process is unprecedented in the country's aviation history.
A senior pilot of Biman, preferring anonymity, said that according to Biman's operation manual, any pilot hired as an FO must have a minimum of 300 flying hours, accumulated over the three years prior to recruitment.
"None of the new first officers have the required 300 flying hours."
A BAPA member, citing examples of irregularities, said one of the newly recruited first officers even failed in two subjects in the Aircraft Transport Pilot Licence exams.
Meanwhile, allegations of nepotism have surfaced over the appointment of Sadia Ahmed as an FO for a Boeing 777.
Sadia, who was terminated from US-Bangla Airlines and Regent Airlines due to inefficiency and other shortcomings, is the wife of Captain Sazid Ahmed -- a member of the recruitment committee.
The PMO report said Sazid might have played a key role in recruiting his wife, along with others, by relaxing the existing requirements of the standard recruitment procedure.
Asked about the allegations of irregularities in her recruitment, Sadia said, "The Biman MD and CEO have spoken to the media on this issue. I have nothing to add.
"Also, I can't talk to you about this issue without permission from my office."
Despite repeated calls and text messages on different dates, Sazid could not be reached for comments.
BAPA sources claimed that one of the newly recruited Boeing 777 captains has not flown an aircraft in the past five years and lost a considerable amount of his pilot currency.
Another newly recruited pilot used to fly an Airbus.
The sources said airbus pilots cannot fly Boeing aircraft unless they obtain the required training and certification.
"Why was this person hired? Biman will have to spend a huge amount of money to train that pilot," another BAPA leader, wishing anonymity, said.
Another allegation made by several serving pilots was that the new recruits were awarded five-year initial contracts.
Initial contracts lasting over one year are against the rules, they said.
Over 30 existing pilots of different posts in Biman were eligible for promotions, which were "deliberately blocked to pull off this gross act of corruption and nepotism", they added.
M Mahbub Ali, state minister for civil aviation, said the ministry will not tolerate any irregularities in Biman's pilot recruitment process.
He also said they formed a committee to investigate the alleged irregularities in the recent recruitments.
"The minister has asked Biman to provide necessary information and reports as part of the investigation," he told reporters recently.
Zahid Hossain, CEO and managing director of Biman, told the media that they already formed an internal probe committee in this regard.
BAPA DEMANDS INVESTIGATION
In its letter to the Biman authorities yesterday, BAPA said, "We have at different times pointed out that the way pilots are being recruited on contract is beyond regulation."
It further said, "The recruitment could have been done within the legal and ethical framework, which would have best suited the airline and its pilots. But the way it was done has seriously tarnished the image of the national flag carrier and the pilot community. We, the pilot community, are not ready to take any responsibility for the misdeeds of any individual."