AVIATION POLICY

Time is right

by Sheikh Monirul Islam | Published: 00:05, Apr 01,2018 | Updated: 00:58, Apr 01,2018

 
 

FROM 1992 till 2018, over a period of 35 years, the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh had 24 chairmen. Only during past nine years, during the present government’s tenure, seven chairman joined the Civil Aviation Authority. The member of planning and operation was changed, as unconfirmed sources say, more than 21 times and the director of flight safety and regulations was changed at least 17 times.
This is a dangerous phenomenon where expertise in the field was never allowed to grow. As Captain Halim raised the point rightly ‘no one ever checked his record over a period of 29 years.’ This is a serious issue. When airline operators around the world are worried about SAFA (Safety Assessment of Foreign Aircraft) these days, which includes all aspect of the airline operations, I think we are in a situation with a very deep hole already dug in the ground, for which we do not even have source of light to reach the bottom. Questions will be raised if we find some skeletons down at the bottom. This can turn to be a serious embarrassment for the government when our aircraft will be grounded at outstations by SAFA inspectors.
Eight Biman engineers are held by CTTC till this day for a pure human factor issue, well recognised within the industry. B777 has some engine design issues which make maintenance access very critical. This is where the mistakes are usually made. No engineer in the world would do any subversive activities to make the life of people on board unsafe; professionals do not do that. I draw attention of the Prime Minister’s Office to the release of those boys from custody, which will be a moral boost to professionalism in the aviation maintenance industry. I request the CTTC to be kind and understanding for a cause which is above all in the national interest.
The current director of flight safety and regulations, I heard, is a good officer, a GDP, possibly a sword of honour from Jessore and served as ADC to the president at Bangabhaban. As a director of flight safety and regulations, do we see a regulator, whose primary function is rule making and compliance? May we ask what kind of qualifications and experience he had before joining CAAB? Why ICAO, FAA, EASA are not asking these questions? How with no background in the field, did he become the head of flight safety and regulations in CAAB? This is a serious violation where everyone is keeping their eyes closed. If we check with EASA, UK CAA, CASA and FAA, with very little knowledge of civil aviation, these guys are becoming CAAB chairman, member of operations and planning and the director of flight safety and regulations. This is primarily the issue where oversight is not effective at all. Our aviation safety is in danger and we are sitting on a time bomb.
General aviation activities are mushrooming in our backyards and we have at least a dozen of helicopter operators and similar number of small aircraft operators. Their close proximity is not only a threat to commercial airline activities nearby; it is occupying very costly land resources which restricts developments around the current airport. We have VVIP, VIP and CIP lounges which only occupy a considerable amount of vacant land and floor spaces. It is huge resources to serve a very small group of people in our society, ignoring the rest of us, the 99 per cent of the people. There are eight agencies within the airport security apparatus. They all have their private lounges to serve their own group in that segment. On top of that, there is single executive lounge at the departure floor which is also for the rich, not so powerful but able to flick their identities and then there are bankcard holders with big fix-deposit accounts. The virtual 99 per cent are not served at all and such is the reality of ordinary people.
We have nine duty-free shops in our airport and they all belong to special interest and powerful group of people. We have serious doubt about their way of operations as there are no visible sales at the shop fronts. Where their stocks are disappearing to as they are able to show substantial sales on their account. These shops occupy huge floor spaces where a tiny bookshop ‘Bangladesh Culture & Books’ of just around 32 square feet, the owner is a Christian lady, has to pay a rent of Tk 60,000 a month who has to run the shop along with three other employees. Did CAAB not show any reluctance towards charging her a discounted rate of rent? She rightly deserves one.
Our airports are ailing, they are mismanaged and qualities of services are absolutely lowest in that perspective. This is the 21st century and it is a knowledge-based society. We need to acquire technology through investments from our foreign partners. But the very first impression they receive once they land at our airports does not make it a positive one. Can we connect our airport through underground railway services? Can we have at least decent taxi services? Can we have a clean and decent airport? Can we have multiple aerobridges connecting our terminal to the aircraft? Can we ensure mosquitoes not entering the cabin of the aircraft? Can we have decent toilet facilities? Can we have our baggage delivered on completing of the immigration formalities? Are we able to run our airport with the people who are best at their job and attitude? What is it that required to ensure these services? Why do we have then a serving uniformed personnel as our airport director who has no knowledge of running the place at the first instant?
The longest-serving CAAB chairman is a BAF officer by the name of AVM Mahmud Hussein, who has a sound mind, an intellectual person who reads a lot. He had a dream of building an aviation university to which the prime minister agreed in principle. Time has come to look forward to building a new group of young generation people who will be trained in every field of aviation and take charge. There are half a dozen of private airlines where everyone is competing against each other. It is time to put all the resources in one basket and build an efficient regional/domestic airliner which will bring passengers to a hub where from a new national airline will carry them towards international destinations. If only our prime minister would undertake this noble task and allow only two airlines to grow complementing each other, this nation will be served better. Our people are patriotic and they would support a new national airline with so much of enthusiasm dumping those hungry mega careers like Emirates, Etihad, Qatar, Oman, Malaysia, Singapore and Thai airlines along with some of their sister concern AirAsia, FlyDubai, TigerAir, and Air Arabia.
We need a new terminal for which we have sufficient space, but we must have a very pragmatic approach. We need our airport to be served by efficient cargo handling system, our ground operations must be privatised and public education through electronic media, we shall have that dream come true. Changing CAAB chairman, MOCAT secretaries or a Biman chairman is not the solution. What we need is a pragmatic approach from a dynamic leadership and an aviation policy urgently which is demand of the time.

Sheikh Monirul Islam is an aircraft engineer, educated and trained in Australia. He worked within Biman, Qantas, Malaysia Airlines, Abu Dhabi Aircraft Technologies, Etihad, Garuda Indonesia, Mega Maldives Airlines, and Air Arabia.

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