After keeping four high-salaried foreign pilots idle for up to four months, Biman Bangladesh Airlines finally obtained security clearance on Sunday to put them to service.
The foreign pilots were hired to fly Boeing 786 Dreamliner, two of which were added to the Biman fleet last year. Another two were added recently this year.
However, although the national flag carrier has been facing crew shortage, the pilots could not be put to use as the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) asked Biman to take security clearance for the aviators.
Biman could not complete the process of security clearance even in four months.
However, during this period Biman spent above $10,000 a month for each pilot as salary.
All four pilots were sent on leave until security clearance was obtained, to avert other expenses behind the pilots, according to Biman sources.
Finally, the home ministry issued the security clearance on Sunday after Biman's newly-appointed Managing Director Mokabbir Hossain took initiatives.
After getting security clearance, one pilot has already joined in service and the other three will join soon.
Biman obtained the clearance from the home ministry after initiative by the new managing director, said Mohibul Haque, secretary to the civil aviation ministry.
He told The Business Standard that Biman did not inform the ministry about the issue all this time, causing the delay.
The foreign pilots were appointed contractually as Biman's local pilots were not trained to operate 787 Dreamliner operation.
Earlier, no security clearance was required for foreign pilots. They could start service with their own certification. But CAAB decided to include the condition of security clearance in June this year, said a senior executive of Biman.
Meantime, the four 787 aircraft cannot be optimally used due to shortage of flight crew. An aircraft will have to be on air at least 17 hours to make its operation profitable.
Currently, Biman has flight crew shortage and it has been looking for well-trained pilots to operate 787 Dreamliner, he said.
The new aircraft are being used at minimum capacity due to crew shortage, he added.
In 2008, Biman Bangladesh Airlines had signed a US$2.1 billion agreement with Boeing to purchase 10 new aircraft, including the four Dreamliner aircraft which have already been added to the fleet.
Although Biman's fleet expanded, it could not improve operational efficiency alongside the expansion, causing below per use of new aircraft.
It is now planning to purchase two more passenger aircraft and two freighters.
Biman has already started negotiation with Boeing to purchase new aircraft, said a senior executive of the national carrier.