Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina unveiled a new Boeing aircraft for Biman at Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka yesterday.
The delivery of the Boeing 777-300ER aircraft is part of a $1.2 billion sales agreement that Biman Bangladesh Airlines signed with the world’s leading plane maker Boeing in 2008 for 10 aircraft deliveries between 2011 and 2019.
Hasina named the aircraft Palki (palanquin).
She unveiled the aircraft soon after her arrival at the airport from a four-day visit to Germany. Top Biman and Boeing officials and the US Chargé d’Affaires Nicholas Dean attended the ceremony.
The aircraft that cost $152 million can fly up to 16 hours at a stretch, which make it economically viable if it is operated on long-haul routes.
A second 777-300ER is pending to be delivered on November 22 and two more deliveries are planned for 2013.
Addressing a press conference at Balaka, Biman’s head office, Biman Managing Director Air Commodore (retd) Mohammad Zakiul Islam said the airline will start long-haul flights on November 2 to London, Manchester, Rome, Milan and Jeddah.
Biman will also operate some flights on short-haul routes for test and pilots’ training purposes.
Asked whether the prime minister gave any instruction, the Biman MD said: “The prime minister directed us to operate the aircraft properly and resume the Dhaka-New York flight as early as possible.”
Although Biman is ready to operate flights on the Dhaka-NY route, it cannot do it now as the Federal Aviation Administration of the USA has not yet upgraded the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (Caab) to category 1 from the existing category 2.
Caab is working on it and Boeing is also helping Bangladesh in its endeavour to operate flights on the Dhaka-NY route.
The delivery, Biman’s first acquisition of a brand-new aircraft, will enable Biman to begin the renewal of its aircraft fleet as part of a programme to reform Bangladesh’s national carrier and expand its services, the US Embassy in Dhaka said in a statement.
Asked about the technical problem of the newly procured aircraft, Santos J Miguel, director of international sales for Boeing, who was present at the press conference, said the plane is built by humans so it is not unusual that there may be some flaws in their work.
Before a take-off for Dhaka, two minor problems were detected in its waterline and microphone and those were fixed in no time, he said.
Hasina also unveiled the new livery for the airline — Balaka or the white stork, flying across the red sun. Last year it was changed to the greenish stork, but was reverted to Balaka yesterday.
FEATURES OF THE AIRCRAFT
The Biman MD said the 419-seater aircraft in its two class configuration has 35 seats in the business class and 384 in the economy. The business class is of high taste and getup. The economy class is both ergonomically compatible and passenger friendly, he added.
He also said the nine-abreast seating allows enough leg space and lateral freedom to the passengers. It also has sliding seat-cushion, reclining back-rest and adjustable head-rest with provision for turning this into a pillow block.
The interior of the business class is adorned with the motif of traditional Jamdani design of Bangladesh — creating an atmosphere of a unique combination of Euclidian geometry and traditional weaving genius of the folk artisans who have been practising this skill for thousands of years, the Biman MD said.
Every seat has its own audio-video system. The in-flight entertainment system is loaded with movies, drama, songs and video games.