An Iranian passenger plane with 66 people on board crashed in central Iran during a flight from Tehran to the city of Yasuj killing everyone on board, Iranian media reported on February 18.
According to Iranian journalists reporting on the February 18 accident, the 20-year-old twin-propeller ATR plane had been grounded on several previous occasions due to various faults. The latest incident with the plane occurred in January where it was forced to make an emergency landing.
The jet crashed into the side of Dena mountain close to the village of Kohangan. The remote location lies near the border of Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad and Isfahan provinces.
Aseman Airlines' public relations department said all 66 people on board perished in the incident, including 60 passengers, two attendants and two security personnel, as well as the pilot and co-pilot.
This latest incident comes just two days after a jet operated by privately-owned Qeshm Airlines failed to open its landing gear on Mehrabad’s runway. However, nobody was injured in that near crash.
Iran has so far received several new jets from both Airbus and ATR, the latter now restarting several domestic routes which had been mothballed due to the lack of available planes. However, despite the introduction of the nuclear deal, which from January 2016 lifted major sanctions against Tehran, fresh difficulties hindering aircraft orders emerged after the US Trump Administration suggested it might introduce new heavy sanctions. These would not only hit sales to Iran planned by American plane manufacturers such as Boeing, they would also get in the way of non-American rivals like Airbus given that American parts are used in manufacturing its planes.
The timing of the crash could not have come at a worse time for Iran-US relations as Washington’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has been accused of dragging its feet in offering new licenses to Boeing, Airbus and ATR to sell jets and spare parts for the ageing Iranian aviation industry.
An ATR representative, who spoke to Iranian media earlier this year on condition of anonymity, said that OFAC’s slowness offering licenses to Aseman Airlines had left ATR in a “state of uncertainty” over how to move ahead with its Iranian deals, forcing the company to slow its plans for expansion in the market.
Iranian airlines, which placed several large orders at the end of 2016, have so far only received more than a dozen, with the country’s flag carrier IranAir getting the bulk of new jet deliveries.
Last year, IranAir received a handful of Airbus jets, the first such modern aeroplanes Iran had taken delivery of in three decades because of various international sanctions it had to contend with over the years. The current average age of Iranian plans is believed to hover around 20 years.