Farhad Chowdhury: Boeing’s Dreamliner aircrafts spread their wings in the sky of Bangladesh, dreaming of changing the day in the sky. However, Biman is playing a child’s game with these valuable and modern aircrafts.
The number of take-offs and landings is being increased by using aircraft capable of flying for 20 hours continuously as ‘connecting flights’ instead of continuously. As a result, the life expectancy of expensive aircraft is reduced by half. Not only the life expectancy is decreasing, the cost of the national flag carrier Biman Bangladesh Airlines is also increasing due to the same reason.
Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner aircraft are among the most advanced aircraft in the world. The planes are able to run directly from Dhaka on long distance routes like Europe-America and Canada. But in Bangladesh the planes are being used for connecting flights to Chittagong or Sylhet instead of continuously. For example, Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner was landed at Chittagong Airport on the way from Dhaka to Dubai. From there, the plane took off again towards Dubai. The same is being done on Manchester and London routes in the UK. Here the 787-8 Dreamliner landed in Sylhet after taking off from Dhaka. From there it flew back to London.
Experts say that Dreamliner aircraft are mainly suitable for long routes. It can fly continuously for 20 hours. Flying and landing on shorter routes like Chittagong and Sylhet will reduce their life expectancy.
Biman Bangladesh Airlines currently has six Dreamliner aircraft in its fleet. Among them, there are 4 aircraft of the 787-8 model. These are Akashbeena, Hansbalaka, Gangchil and Rajhansa. And the 787-9 model has two aircraft named Sonar Tari and Achin Pakhi.
Flight cycle reduced
According to sources from Boeing, the manufacturer of Dreamliner, Boeing-787 Dreamliner aircrafts have 44 thousand ‘flight cycles’. That is, since the purchase of an aircraft, it will be able to take off and land 44 thousand times. Once taken off and landed a cycle will be completed. Not just the Dreamliner, any aircraft completes a cycle once it takes off and lands. For example, a direct flight from Dhaka to London will end a ‘cycle’. Again, if the plane goes to London with passengers via Sylhet from Dhaka, the plane will land twice in London and in Sylhet, so the plane will cost two ‘cycles’. Moreover, the Dreamliner is a very sophisticated aircraft, with high maintenance costs and spare parts.
So, operating this aircraft on a short route would be a huge waste of money for the airline.
Flight capacity of Dreamliner
According to Flight Status, an organization that researches different routes of the air with flight fluctuations, it takes 17 hours 15 minutes from Perth, Australia to London (Qantas Airways), 17 hours 35 minutes from Melbourne to Dallas (Qantas Airways), 17 hours from Auckland to New York with Boeing’s 787-9 Dreamliner. 50 minutes (Air New Zealand) and Darwin to London 17 hours 55 minutes (Qantas Airways) flights are operated.
As Biman Bangladesh uses the same model aircraft as connecting flights, in some cases they have to land after crossing a distance of only 30 to 40 minutes.
Aviation expert Kazi Wahidul Alam, a former member of the board of directors of Biman Bangladesh Airlines, told Daily Industry that every aircraft has an engine cycle and a landing gear cycle (how many times it can land in its lifetime). These are very expensive parts. Whether flights land from Dhaka to Sylhet and from Dhaka to London, each will be treated as one landing. Whether the flight is long or short, landing will reduce a ‘landing life’, reducing engine life.
He also said that the engine also has to be checked after a certain number of landings, which is also very expensive. Also, a plane consumes the most oil during take-off and landing. ‘Short landing’ is one of the reasons for increasing the cost of aircraft. We are taking the big aircraft, is there any benefit to us? If not, then why do them?
Dreamliner to be cause of concern
According to the engineering department of Biman Bangladesh Airlines, after a certain period, an aircraft is subjected to various types of audits or tests. Various parts of airlines are checked whether they are working or not. Among these two important tests are C-Check and D-Check. An aircraft is C-checked every 18 months to two years. It takes about two weeks to do this. D-Check involves disassembling all parts of the aircraft and checking each one. This is usually done after 10 to 12 years or the end of the aircraft’s life cycle. It costs about $6 million.
Biman’s Dreamliners were introduced in 2018 and 2019. The lifespan for de-checking is estimated to be approximately 10-12 years, but as the life cycle of the aircraft is spent on short routes, de-checking should be done within half the time i.e. 6-7 years. Besides, if the life cycle of the landing gear and engine is over then these also have to be bought anew. Rolls-Royce Holdings PLC, the manufacturer of these two instruments, said that they are currently selling each landing gear for 7 million US dollars and the entire set of landing gear for 8 million dollars. Besides, each engine will cost two million US dollars. In total, it may cost 350 to 400 crores in Bangladeshi taka.
When asked what is the solution, Kazi Wahidul said that if there are more passengers on Sylhet to London or Chittagong to Middle East routes, Biman can bring them to Dhaka with small aircraft and operate direct flights on Dhaka to London or Dubai routes. Many Middle East aircraft bring passengers from Sylhet and Chittagong to Dhaka and go directly from Dhaka to various destinations.
Dreamliner is going on a short route: Biman’s MD
When asked about this, Biman’s Managing Director (MD) and CEO said. Shafiul Azim told Daily Industry, ‘The matter is certainly right, I also agree.’ However, we analyzed and found that 90 percent of the passengers of the London-Manchester flight are from Sylhet, such a number of Emirates passengers are from Chittagong. If we want to operate direct flights from Sylhet or Chittagong then we have to have Dreamliner at those airports along with crew setup. But no airport except Dhaka still has these facilities. Besides, we have seen that those who fly from Sylhet and Chittagong do not want to wait five-six hours after arriving in Dhaka, so the flight leaves Dhaka and lands in Sylhet and Chittagong, and then leaves for the main destination.
He also said that if the facilities in Sylhet and Chittagong increase in future and we can have a hub there, then connecting flights can be provided from Dhaka.
Meanwhile, Biman’s MD talks about ‘analysis’, but doubts have arisen whether he has analyzed the cost issue or not. Air fare is Tk 3199 from those going down to Sylhet and Chittagong by Dreamliner. However, according to experts, considering the life expectancy of the Dreamliner, the cost per seat on the flight to Chittagong or Sylhet is around Tk 20,000. In other words, by operating such short flights with Dreamliner, there is a huge financial loss for the airline.
However, Daily Industry could not collect specific information from any expert or airline about this amount of expenditure.
The aircraft fleet currently consists of 21 aircraft including four Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners, two 787-9 Dreamliners, four Boeing 777-300 ERs, six Boeing 737-800 models and five Bombardier Dash-8-Q-400 models.
Currently, Biman operates flights to Kuwait, Doha, Qatar, Dammam, Saudi Arabia, Medina, Riyadh, Jeddah, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Muscat, Oman, Delhi, India, London, United Kingdom, Manchester and Toronto, Canada. Flights are being operated between Southeast Asian countries to Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. Apart from this, short distance Kolkata, Kathmandu flights are running regularly. Biman will operate flights from Dhaka to Japan’s Narita Airport from September 1.
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