Damage to planes at HSIA: Biman losing face, money

Experts say carrier’s failure to punish callous employees led to series of aircraft collisions

A series of bizarre collisions involving planes on the apron of Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport have raised serious concerns about Biman's competence.

In the latest incident, a cargo loader of Biman gouges a large hole in the fuselage of a Boeing 737 of Fly Dubai on Monday.

A Biman employee was operating the equipment to unload cargo from the 737, sources at the HSIA said, adding that it appeared that the operator was being callous.

The plane has been grounded.

In November last year, ground service equipment hit and damaged a Boeing 787 of Bahrain's Gulf Air at the airport.

Not only does Biman's reputation suffer after these incidents, but the company also has to pay several crores of taka in damages after each of these incidents.

On April 10 last year, two Biman planes were damaged as a Boeing 777-300ER was towed into a Boeing 737-800 in a hangar, damaging the radome of the 777 and the horizontal stabiliser of the 737.

Only two months later, a Boeing 787 was towed into the wing of a 737 while entering a hangar at the HSIA, causing significant damage to both planes.

In another incident, a Boeing 787-8 aircraft on June 16 last year, collided with the boarding bridge at HSIA.

Aviation experts and officials of different foreign airlines say the aforesaid incidents would not have happened if the individuals in charge of operating the aircraft and the equipment were more careful.

Experts said such incidents could have been avoided with careful operation of the aircraft, equipment and proper maintenance.

Officials of different foreign airlines said they might look for an alternative to Biman's services.

Since these bizarre incidents are happening amid discussions about handing over the ground handling operation to a foreign company, Biman should seriously investigate whether these "accidents" are deliberate, said aviation expert ATM Nazrul Islam.

"Taking the cargo loader close to a plane is not rocket science. Ground handling rules or protocols are not properly followed by the people in charge," he added.

Several months ago, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina expressed anger over these incidents.

Ministry Secretary Mokammel Hossain warned that Biman will not be in business if such incidents keep happening.

MA Momen, former Biman CEO, said these incidents keep occurring because the individuals responsible do not face punishment.

Amid complaints of Biman's poor luggage management, the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh hired a foreign contractor for the ground handling at the now under-construction third terminal.

If the two current terminals are also given to a third party, Biman is likely to lose the means to earn around Tk 1,500 crore a year. 

Around 130 domestic and international flights carrying 25,000-30,000 passengers use HSIA every day.

As of now, only Biman provides ground and cargo handling support in Bangladesh.