Criminal negligence that could have cost lives
We are deeply alarmed by Biman's actions or inactions following an incident in which, as reported by this daily, two pilots put passengers' lives at risk. During a Biman flight on February 1, 2022, one of the pilots set the airspeed of the plane to 165 knots (nautical miles per hour) during take-off, which was 20 knots less than the plane's standard operating procedure. While climbing, the pilot changed the airspeed thrice in four minutes. The captain said this was done to climb faster to avoid thunderclouds. However, the meteorological report for the day said there was "no significant cloud". Moreover, this technique is not also supported by the standard operating procedure.
The pilots made many other claims, none of which were supported by the plane's flight data recorder, also known as black box. When the speed supposedly dropped to 152 knots, the pilot disengaged the autopilot and pushed both engines to "emergency" power level, which compromises engine components. Consequently, the plane's turbine temperature shot up by over 100 degrees, causing metals inside the engines to melt. Despite claiming to investigators later that they were forced to pursue such actions due to being in a life-or-death situation, they never submitted any air safety report, which is a clear violation of the safety manual. And there was a plethora of such violations that followed – including the pilots seemingly wiping out the maintenance message on the audio and radio control display unit (ARCDU) to hide their own mistakes.
What's worse, despite the damage inflicted on it, the plane flew seven flights before being grounded. And none of this would have even come to light had it not been for the fact that the plane sent automatic data about engine health to the manufacturer, which notified Biman Engineering Services. Biman conducted its own investigations, but the investigation report, submitted in March 2022, was buried. Bizarrely, the senior of the two pilots was even included in a list of pilots set for promotion!
All this raises serious concern about Biman's credibility as an institution. It seems the incident happened as a direct result of the pilots' misjudgement. But instead of owning up to it, they tried to erase evidence ignoring all professional ethics. They knowingly put hundreds of peoples' lives at risk but, instead of holding them to account, Biman tried to hide it. What does that say about Biman's governance system? Airlines deal with people's lives on a daily basis, making it crucial that they maintain the highest international standard, something that Biman has clearly failed to do.
Even though Biman is our national flag carrier, and we would like to stand beside it, what it and the pilots did deserve an appropriate response. Their actions – or should we say, criminal negligence? – unnecessarily put people's lives at risk and further tarnished the image of our country. Therefore, we urge Biman to make the findings of its investigation public, correct its flaws, and apologise to the people whose lives were put at risk. The pilots, if found guilty of misconduct, must be held to account. And even the role of the regulators needs to be carefully investigated.