Iran Air Brings Back 7 Aircraft With Local Capabilities

Iran Air, the national flag carrier of Iran, has announced its plans to bring back seven grounded aircraft into service, thanks to the country's domestic maintenance capabilities. The airline hopes to have the aircraft in the skies within six months, boosting its operations and network. Here's what you need to know about this development.


Why are some aircraft grounded?

Iran Air has been facing many challenges in maintaining its fleet of 51 aircraft, due to the sanctions imposed by the United States and other countries. The sanctions prevent Iran Air from buying new aircraft or spare parts from foreign manufacturers, such as Airbus, Boeing, ATR, and Bombardier. The sanctions also limit Iran Air's access to international financing, insurance, and technical support.

As a result, many of Iran Air's aircraft are old, outdated, or in need of repair. According to data from CH-aviation, the average age of Iran Air's fleet is 25.7 years and nearly half of its passenger aircraft are currently grounded, including:

  • 3 Airbus A300s
  • 2 Airbus A310s
  • 3 Airbus A319s
  • 5 Airbus A320s
  • 1 Airbus A321
  • 2 Airbus A330-200s
  • 13 ATR 72-600s

These aircraft are either parked or stored at various airports in Iran, awaiting maintenance or spare parts. Some of them have been out of service for years.


How will Iran Air bring back the aircraft?

Iran Air has revealed that it will use its domestic maintenance capabilities to bring back seven of its grounded aircraft into service. The airline's CEO Shamseddin Farzadipour was quoted as saying by ILNA, "Our priority is domestic repair, and seven planes will become airworthy in the next six months." He did not specify which aircraft would be returned to service, but he hinted that they would likely be used on busy routes to Iraq, catering to the large market of Iranian pilgrims visiting holy sites in the neighboring country. Iran Air has been investing in its domestic maintenance services over recent months, in order to overcome the challenges posed by the sanctions. The airline has established a maintenance center at Tehran Mehrabad Airport, where it can perform various checks and repairs on its own aircraft, as well as those of other Iranian carriers. The airline has also been able to source some spare parts from local suppliers or third-party countries that are not affected by the sanctions. For example, Iran Air managed to acquire four engines for its Airbus A330-200s from Qatar Airways last year. In addition, Iran Air has been able to benefit from some exemptions or waivers granted by the US government for humanitarian purposes. For instance, Iran Air was allowed to receive eight ATR 72-600s from France in 2018 and 2019, as well as some spare parts for its existing fleet.

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What are Iran Air's fleet modernization plans?

Besides bringing back older aircraft, Iran Air also intends to modernize its aging fleet with newer and more efficient models. Iran Air has a number of outstanding orders with Airbus, including:

  • 32 A320neos (some A321neos)
  • 28 A330neos (some A330-900neos)
  • 16 A350-1000s

The orders date back to 2016 when Iran Air signed a historic deal with Airbus worth $25 billion at list prices. The deal was made possible by the lifting of sanctions under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the Iran nuclear deal. However, only three Airbus jet aircraft (one A321 and two A330-200s) were delivered to Iran Air before the US reimposes sanctions on Iran in 2018. Since then, the delivery of the remaining aircraft has been suspended or canceled. Iran Air still hopes to receive some of its ordered aircraft in the future, if the sanctions are lifted or eased under a new agreement. The airline's CEO said, "We have not given up on our orders and we are following up on them." Iran Air also has an order for 80 Boeing aircraft (50 737 MAXs and 30 777s), which was also signed in 2016 and valued at $16.6 billion at list prices. However, this order has also been blocked by the US sanctions and is unlikely to be fulfilled anytime soon. Iran Air is making efforts to bring back seven of its grounded aircraft into service within six months, using its domestic maintenance capabilities. This will help the airline improve its operations and network, especially on routes to Iraq. Iran Air also plans to modernize its fleet with newer aircraft from Airbus, if the sanctions are lifted or eased in the future. Iran Air is the oldest airline in the Middle East and operates a fleet of 51 aircraft to over 60 destinations worldwide.

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