First Published: 2005-04-21

Crash underlines Iran aviation peril

Deaths of three people following fire, crash landing at Tehran airport highlights perilous state of Irans fleet.


Middle East Online

By Laurent Lozano - TEHRAN

Many witnesses accused rescuers of being slow to react

The deaths of three people following a fire and crash landing at Tehran airport on Wednesday have highlighted the perilous state of Iran's fleet, suffering under US sanctions on the Islamic republic.

Two people were confirmed killed, a child was missing and 80 people injured when a Boeing 707 operated by Saha Airlines veered off the runway as it landed at Mehrabad airport on Wednesday night, airport officials said.

Rescue teams were on Thursday still looking for the child who fell into the Kan river, where the plane ended its flight from the Iranian island of Kish with 157 passengers and crew on board, said the airport's deputy manager.

"All we know is that the plane wasn't able to brake," Mohammad Ali Hosseinzadeh said.

"It ran the length of the runway, then continued several hundred metres through the grass and up to the river, which lies on the airport's perimeter."

However, the managing director of Saha Airlines, which belongs to the Iranian military but offers a civilian service, blamed the tarmac.

"The landing gear fell into a hole at the end of the runway, causing the fire," said Mansour Nikookar.

Hosseinzadeh insisted that answers to why the plane caught fire lie in the plane's black box, but whatever the cause of the crash landing, passengers' testimony will send shivers down the spines of those using Iranian domestic flights.

"The plane landed at the same speed it was doing in the sky," one injured passenger told state television.

"The plane had problems right from take off. People rushed to the exits when the fire broke out and I saw a child fall in the river," said another.

When the cabin caught fire "we tried to push the doors", said a third passenger. But the emergency slides did not work.

"I jumped out and fell three metres. I saw several people with broken arms and legs," said another injured passenger.

Many witnesses accused rescuers of being slow to react, but given that Wednesday's crash is only the latest in a series of Iranian air accidents, the real culprit seems to be the dilapidated state of Iran's aging fleet.

"You are flying 200-year-old planes," mocked one passenger.

"The 707s are more than 30 years old and totally outdated," an aeronautical expert said on condition of anonymity.

National carrier Iran Air "has not used the 707 for years, only Saha uses them", said Hosseinzadeh.

Iran has a high demand for domestic flights combined with unilateral sanctions on the transfer of technology imposed by Washington. As a result, Iran can no longer buy US-made Boeings or European Airbuses which contain American components, nor US-made spare parts.

In the hope of finding a solution, Tehran turned to the former Soviet Union. Many Iranian passenger planes are now Tupolovs, Antonovs and Yaks bought or rented from Iran's one-time northern neighbour.

But from 2002 to 2003 three Soviet-made planes crashed in Iran, killing more than 400.

Last month, a Boeing and an Airbus both had to make emergency landings at Iranian airports on the same day.

Earlier this year, Washington said it would be prepared to lift the ban on selling spare parts for Iranian aircraft, but rescinding the ban is conditional on the outcome of delicate negotiations on Iran's suspect nuclear programme.

To add insult to injury, Tehran is still waiting for its new international airport to open and replace the dilapidated Mehrabad where Wednesday's crash occurred.

Opened in 2004 after years of delays, the airport was swiftly shut down by the hardline Revolutionary Guards who said that contractors who built the airport also had business dealings with arch-enemy Israel.


Turkey’s largest media group to be sold to Erdogan ally

Syrian rebels reach evacuation deal in Eastern Ghouta town

Abbas calls US ambassador to Israel 'son of a dog'

UN says Turkey security measures 'curtail human rights'

'Saudization' taking its toll on salesmen

Exiled Syrian doctors treat refugees in Turkey

Ahed Tamimi reaches plea deal for eight months in jail

UN launching final push to salvage Libya political agreement

Conditions for displaced from Syria's Ghouta 'tragic': UN

Sisi urges Egyptians to vote, denies excluding rivals

Rights Watch says Libya not ready for elections

Saudis revamp school curriculum to combat Muslim Brotherhood

American mother trapped in Syria’s Ghouta calls out Trump

Syria workers say French firm abandoned them to jihadists

Grim Nowruz for Kurds fleeing Afrin

Sarkozy back in custody for second day of questioning

Israel confirms it hit suspected Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007

Netanyahu says African migrants threaten Jewish majority

US Senate votes on involvement in Yemen war as Saudi prince visits

What a ‘limited strike’ against Syria’s Assad might mean

Natural gas in eastern Mediterranean fuels increasing tensions

Erdogan tells US to stop ‘deceiving’, start helping on Syria

IS controls Damascus district in surprise attack

French ex-president held over Libya financing allegations

NGO says Israeli army violating Palestinian minors’ rights

Human rights chief slams Security Council for inaction on Syria

US warns Turkey over civilians caught in Syria assault

Saudi crown prince keen to cement ties with US

Erdogan vows to expand Syria op to other Kurdish-held areas

Kurdish envoy accuses foreign powers of ignoring Turkish war crimes

Morocco authorities vow to close Jerada's abandoned mines

Israeli soldier sees manslaughter sentence slashed

Turkey insists no plans to remain in Afrin

Cairo voters show unwavering support for native son Sisi

Forum in Jordan explores new teaching techniques

Gaza Strip woes receive renewed attention but no fix is expected

Kurds, Syrian opposition condemn Afrin looting

36 jihadists killed in Egypt’s Sinai

Israel arrests French consulate worker for gun smuggling

Pro-Turkish forces loot Afrin

Israel prepares to demolish Jerusalem attacker's home

Saudi crown prince says his country to seek nuclear bomb if Iran does

Arab women artists in diaspora focus on identity and loss

Tunisia’s Central Bank targets inflation but may hurt growth prospects

Libya’s health system reflects a larger humanitarian crisis