Iran plane crash latest to afflict aging fleet
The Iran plane crash that killed 77 Sunday involved an aircraft bought second-hand 37 years ago, not uncommon in a fleet further hobbled by poor maintenance and a shortage of US-made spare parts.
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The aging Boeing-727 plane – which was already second-hand when sold to Iran 37 years ago, according to Iranian media – broke into pieces when it crashed near the city of Orumiyeh after dark. State television showed rescuers battling thick snow to find dozens of survivors among the 104 on board.
The crash is the latest to afflict Iran’s aging fleet of aircraft, much of it delivered before the 1979 Islamic revolution and hobbled ever since by poor maintenance and a shortage of new planes and American-made spare parts due to sanctions.
Iranian officials have often blamed the sanctions for Iran’s poor air safety record, and the semiofficial Fars News Agency quoted an “informed source” saying that on Sunday “the plane crashed due to a technical flaw.”
Preliminary reason: lack of visibility
State television also reported that pilots had reported a technical failure to the control tower before the jet disappeared from radar screens.
But transport officials on Monday blamed fog and snowy conditions some 460 miles northwest of the capital, Tehran, and reported that one black box had been retrieved. Three days of mourning were announced in the province.
“Based on the evidence, the plane’s captain could not land at Orumiyeh airport due to bad weather conditions and he decided to return [to Tehran],” Ahmad Majidi, the deputy for crisis management of the transport ministry, told Iranian media. “But for unknown reasons the plane crashed around five miles from the airport.”
Transport Minister Hamid Behbahani also stated that the “preliminary reason [for the crash] is lack of visibility and fog.”
Iran has seen numerous high-profile crashes of civilian and military planes alike, despite Iranian attempts to keep aged aircraft flying. In the past, Iran has not been able to directly purchase new US-made Boeing aircraft, nor European-made Airbus planes because a significant portion of parts are American-made.