Official claims that an Iran-made passenger jet will soon be ready have been ridiculed by suggesting the government should fly on its maiden flight.
In an article about the prospect of the Islamic Republic’s plan to restart manufacturing Iran-140 aircraft, Faraz internet daily proposed that government officials should be onboard during its first flights, amid serious safety fears.
Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf (Qalibaf), the current speaker of the parliament and a qualified pilot who was commander of the Revolutionary Guards' Air Force from 1997 to 2000, was suggested as “the best candidate” to be at the controls.
Faraz also said that the aircraft should be used by President Ebrahim Raisi and his cabinet for their trips across Iran, challenging state officials who brag about the quality of domestic productions to prove that they believe in what they say.
“Since the government and other institutions always stress the need to support domestic production and replace foreign products with the home-made ones, using the domestically made aircraft by cabinet or parliament members in trips and missions is the best practical manifestation of the slogan of supporting national production,” wrote the daily.
Faraz’s article follows claims by head of Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization Mohammad Mohammadi-Bakhsh that the domestically made passenger plane has passed the final tests and is approved to fly in the near future. According to an article in Iran newspaper, he said that the new passenger planes “have 70 to 150 seats, and as reported by the Ministry of Defense, the construction of the first plane has made good progress and has passed various tests and is ready to fly."
HESA manufactured and flown Iran-140
President Raisi called for a new drive to build passenger planes on a visit to the Iran Aircraft Manufacturing Industrial Company (Hesa) in the city of Esfahan (Isfahan) on June 16, 2022. He ordered the company to design and manufacture passenger planes with at least 72 seats “in the near future”.
In February, Mohammadi-Bakhsh announced that the Ministry of Defense is in charge of producing the plane and the Civil Aviation Organization -- Hesa’s parent company -- is monitoring the process, adding the first phase of manufacturing the new platform of Iran-140 plane has been completed. “We think the new platform of Iran-140 aircraft will make its maiden flight by the end of this year,” referring to the Iranian year that ended on March 20.
Echoing remarks by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, he stressed the need to expand the aviation industry. Only 175 of Iran’s fleet of 330 passenger aircraft are now in use. He said that with 90 airports and a population of about 88 million, the country requires at least 550 aircraft of all sorts and classes.
In the 90s, the Islamic Republic had a licensing deal with Ukraine’s Antonov to build the 52-seat Iran-140, based on Antonov’s AN-140, but the manufacturing program was hit by low production numbers and an appalling safety record. Out of five produced planes, two of them crashed, on February 15, 2009, and August 10, 2014. However, the Islamic Republic authorities insist that the plane is safe.
As talks to restore the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers have hit a deadlock, sanctions prevent the Islamic Republic from buying jets from the likes of Boeing and Airbus.
In February 2021, Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization announced plans for the domestic production of a 100-seater passenger aircraft, but there has been no further news about it since. Earlier this month, Mohammadi-Bakhsh claimed that Russian aircraft are now being repaired in Iran following a deal between the Islamic Republic and Russia to accept each other’s approvals in the field of repair and construction of aircraft.
Iran has suffered from shortages of civilian airliners since the 1990s and used a variety of ways to lease older planes or buy spare parts through intermediaries, but the technical state of its fleet has continued to deteriorate.