02/23/2018, 16.48

US sanctions have turned Iranian airplanes into ‘flying coffins’

Last Sunday’s air crash that killed 65 people has raised the issue of airplane safety in Iran. Some 200 accidents have occurred in 20 years with at least 2,000 deaths. Most of the fleet should have been changed ten years ago, but sanctions have stopped purchases. And Trump is now set to block a billion-dollar agreement between Teheran and Boeing (as well as Airbus).

Tehran (AsiaNews) – Us sanctions are among the causes that have made flying in Iran more unsafe, as evidenced by the accident on Sunday that left 65 passengers and crew members dead.

US sanctions prevent Iranian air carriers from upgrading their fleets. Most recently, the Trump administration has been trying to stop a multibillion-dollar deal with the country’s flag carrier Iran Air for the purchase of new passenger planes.

The latest incident took place in the mountainous area of ​​Semirom. An Aseman Airlines plane that left Teheran headed for the southwestern city of Yasuj disappeared about an hour into the flight when it crashed into a peak.

Search operations are still ongoing. The cause of the crash has not yet been determined, but bad weather and engine problems have been given as possible reasons for the accident.

Iranian media have speculated that the plane’s twin-engine turboprop ATR plane might have experienced technical failure.

The accident highlights a disturbing trend in Iran. According to the BBC, the country has experienced about 200 accidents involving planes and suffered almost 2,000 lives lost in more than two decades.

Analysts and experts in Iran blame the number of incidents on Western sanctions against the Islamic Republic, which have effectively blocked the purchase of new planes or essential spare parts.

This has forced Iranian companies to rely on an aging airline fleet, on spare parts purchased on the black market, and on second-rate Russian planes.

“Much of the Iranian airplanes predate the 1979 revolution,” said Holly Dagres, Iranian-American Middle East analyst and curator of an Iran-related newsletter.

“The average passenger airliner has a life-expectancy of 30 years, which means most of these airplanes should’ve been retired well over a decade ago,” she noted.

In 2016, a year after the signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), then President Barack Obama lifted the ban on civilian aircraft exports to Iran.

This authorised the sale of commercial passenger airplanes and parts to Iran. Iranian carriers followed by reaching several deals with Boeing and its main European competitor Airbus to renew their commercial passenger fleets.

With a new US administration under Donald Trump, the nuclear deal could be scrapped in the coming months and suspended sanctions will likely be re-imposed.

At present, President Donald Trump is considering whether to grant licenses to Boeing to sell 80 planes to Iran Air under a deal signed in December 2016. The first Boeing delivery is due around May 2018.

Trump's opposition could also affect Iran Air's deal with Airbus for the purchase of 100 passenger jets.

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