Iran To Pluck Fleet Growth Out Of Thin Air

For those standing at a safe distance, power struggles in Iran took an interesting turn this week with the adoption of the aviation industry as an election battlefield (metaphorically, that is).

Hamidreza Pahlevani, head of Iran’s Civil Aviation Organisation, informed State media that said State will launch two new airlines by the end of March 2014. According to Pahlevani, over the past year 18 companies have been licensed and are now assembling their fleets, while 19 aircraft have already been added to Iran’s existing total.

Press TV explained that the expansion comes despite the international sanctions against aircraft and component sales which have been in place “ever since the victory of the 1979 Islamic Revolution” - while its audience denounced the “Americans and Zionists who think they can hold [back] technological achievements” and welcomed the suggestion that “the blood of our martyrs is blossoming in the shape of our progress”.

Those “martyrs” are presumably victims of the numerous fatal crashes which have occurred as a result of the inadequate maintenance of Iran’s fleet and which were brought to the attention of the outside world last year by pilot Hooshang Shahbazi, whose career reportedly ended at around the same time.

Jumping on this bandwagon, presidential candidate Ali Akbar Velayati yesterday (May 22, 2013) promised a gathering of commercial pilots that he would modernise the national aviation industry if elected, daringly criticising past administrations for failing to do so.

Stating the obvious somewhat, Velayati told Press TV that the Government “must make sure everything is up to the standards… that the plane purchased is of a distinguished make, documents are valid, the contract is compelling, and repair, maintenance, and spare parts are guaranteed”.

However, with international sanctions firmly in place for the foreseeable future, Velayati’s policies seem like little more than empty election promises (no doubt as familiar to Iranians as to Western voters).

Unless Russia can help. (Russia’s usually happy to help.) Press TV boasted that Iran is currently co-operating with Putin’s fiefdom and its ex-Soviet sister Ukraine in the production and operation of An-140s, having built its first “Iran-140” aircraft in 2003.

An-140s, though? Or “Iran-140s”? Fifty-two seat turboprops aren’t going to go far towards a nationwide fleet upgrade.

It’s a great shame for the ordinary citizens of Iran, who must dice with death every time they set foot on a plane, but Iran’s plans to modernise its fleet are as likely to crash as its doddering aircraft.

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