Iran to introduce its own regional aircraft as Tu-154 ban begins
The first eight IRAN-140 turboprop aircraft are ready to enter service on Saturday as a ban on the ageing Tupelev Tu-154 comes into effect across the country.
Head of Iran’s civil aviation authority Reza Nakhjavani said all operations of the Tu-154 must end by February 19.
Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi said late last year that his ministry was ready to mass-produce the IRAN-140 passenger and cargo aircraft that is said to be capable of carrying 52 passengers more than 1,800nm.
The first IRAN-140 aircraft was introduced by Iran in 2003. Five domestically-manufactured IRAN-140 planes were completed in October 2008 to increase the air force's transportation capacity and upgrade the marine surveillance capabilities. now the first eight are beleived to be ready to enter service with Iran's domestic airlines
The number of fatal crashes of the former Soviet workhorse passenger jet led to the demand for the domestically built aircraft to replace the Russian plane. Sanctions prohibit Iran from purchasing western-built aircraft.
Iran’s civil aviation authority has long been critical of the Tu-154 and Nakhjavani earlier criticized the Tupolev for refusing to respond to the Iranian Civil Aviation Organization's request in connection with Tu-154 accidents in Iran in recent years.
Four Iranian air carriers - Iran Air Tour, Kish Air, Eram and Taban - who have a total of 17 Tu-154 jets in their fleets, were instructed to ground their Tupolevs by February 19 and replace them with other planes.
"The use of Tu-154 planes is banned in connection with recent incidents involving those aircraft," the civil aviation chief said in his letter to the air carriers.
A letter to travel companies in the country, has warned that agencies violating the ban on the sale of the tickets for the Russian airplanes will be held “criminally responsible” according to the Fars news agency.
Some 10 percent of the fatal crashes of the Tu-154 occurred in Iran with the most recent in July 2009.
"They have a long experience with the Tu-154 in Iran," says Oleg Panteleyev, editor of the Russian-language online aviation newspaper Aviaport.ru. "They have dozens of these aircraft in service, along with lots of highly qualified specialists and local servicing centers."
Though Iran has trouble purchasing new airliners due to international sanctions,
Panteleyev says there was never difficulty in obtaining spare parts for the old Tupolev planes, which are not subject to any restrictions.
Three of the Iranian accidents have occurred with planes flown by Iran Air Tours, a mainly domestic charter operator that lists ten Tu-154's in its inventory.