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THE IRANIAN government has recently issued a press release stating talks for the joint production of Ukrainian Antonov 148/158 airliners in the Persian state are in their final stages. Interestingly, this is not the first time the two countries have concluded such a deal. In 2000, an agreement allowed Iran’s HESA production company to manufacture the 50-seat An-140 turboprop under a similar license agreement. That deal was to see over 80 aircraft produced and delivered to various Iranian airlines, however to date, less than 20 have been built.

The history of that programme questions the credibility of this latest development, deeming it as more hot air and a bitter retort from Iran to the ongoing sanctions from Western countries. As the cumulative age of Iranian fleets of Boeing and Airbus increase, the maintenance costs and associated safety issues is also on the rise. As a result, Iran has had to reluctantly turn to inferior aircraft produced in countries not participating in the sanctions for fleet renewal needs.

The Hesa IrAn-140 project was the result of a major fleet upgrade programme in Iran. Various airlines as well as the military operating the similarly sized Antonov 24, a dated 44-seat Soviet design. The Antonov 140 was found to be a suitable replacement and substantial investment was poured into bringing production to Iran. Thereupon, the project was deeply affected when a fatal crash of a demonstration flight killed many of the Antonov design and Engineering team in 2002 and never fully recovered from this tragedy. Subsequent An-140 crashes and the reputation it earned of being one of the most dangerous modern airliners sealed the fate (and failure) of the Hesa programme.

Hardly a sales success; Antonov claims to have sold hundreds of An-148s, yet have only delivered 18. Like the An-140, it is likely that this plane will see limited use in Iran.

Hardly a sales success; Antonov claims to have sold hundreds of An-148s, yet has only delivered 18. Like the An-140, it is likely that this plane will see limited use in Iran.

The An-148 story tells the tale of another unsuccessful attempt to bring Antonov’s reputation of making sub-level unsafe airliners to internationally approved standards. Dogged by reliability issues, the aircraft is roughly as costly to operate as a Boeing 737 classic; a product of the 1980’s. Its infamy was further solidified when a demonstration flight for the Burmese government crashed after one of the wings allegedly broke off mid-flight.

Iran’s turbulent history with Antonov makes this latest news seem unlikely to come to fruition. It does, however, highlight the effect that the political sanctions have had on preventing the acquisition of much needed modern airliners. This need became all too evident when Iran Air flight 277 fatally-crashed last year. The type used; a Boeing 727-200 built over 30 years ago and worth more as scrap metal than a functional airliner, but with no way of replacing these planes, Iran Air’s only choice is to continue flying their B727s and other ageing fleets, or suspend operations until political relationships are re-aligned. Currently a tall and unlikely order.

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3 thoughts on “As sanctions take effect

  1. I have the feeling the west has concluded it is nobody’s interest to fully stop safe Iranien air traffic. So western types like the F100 fly there despite all embargo’s.

  2. Terrible Journalism if I have ever seen it. Antonov DOES NOT make “Sub-level unsafe Airliners”. To the contrary they are resposnsible for some of the most innovative and largest aircraft in history with proven safety and reliability records. One AN-148 did crash but this was due to it being flown faster the maximum speed it was designed for during a simulated emergency descent during a training flight. Any Aircraft can break up if it is subjected to higher G-Forces than what it is designed for. It is not realistic to compare this Aircraft to the AN-140 which was a much less developed Aircraft and clearly did have some Safety issues.

    The claim it is “dogged by reliability issues” is also ridiculous. A spokesman for Rossiya, who operates 6 AN-148 aicraft, said there is no doubt the AN-148 is a very fine aircraft, They would have taken more of them if the Manufacturer hadn’t significantly increased the price. Obviously the Aircraft had some teething issues, like all new aircraft, but those in the know rate the Aircraft highly. The biggest problem is the cos of spares but if a significant number are produced spares will get cheaper.

    The article dismisses the chances of this contract being fulfilled but both Parties have plenty of motivation to get it done. Iran needs new Aircraft and Antonov needs new Customers. Unless the Iranian regime falls there is every chance plenty of AN-148’s and AN-158’s will be in the Iranian skies.

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