News / Middle East

Iran Window Shops at Airshow, Optimistic About Sanctions Relief

An Airbus A380, the world's largest passenger jet, flies during the Dubai Airshow, Nov. 18, 2013.
An Airbus A380, the world's largest passenger jet, flies during the Dubai Airshow, Nov. 18, 2013.
Reuters
Senior Iranian aviation executives were at the Dubai Airshow in a discreet campaign to update their aging passenger jets this week, even as Iran negotiated with international powers to ease economic sanctions over its nuclear program.

Under moderate President Hassan Rouhani, there has been increasing hope the talks in Geneva could secure a breakthrough in the decade-long nuclear stand-off, leading to relief from embargoes that have crippled Iran's airlines.

Iranian airlines are banned from buying new passenger planes from the world's two manufacturing giants, Airbus and Boeing, and rely on through purchases from third parties.

But easing the ban on sales of spare parts has been on the agenda of nuclear talks since 2006, and according to Western diplomats, remains part of a package of sanctions relief if an agreement is reached on curbing Iran's nuclear activities.

The West says the nuclear program is aimed at developing atomic weapons, but Iran says it is solely for the purpose of power generation and medical research.

Dozens of Iranian executives made private visits to the Middle East's largest aviation show in Dubai this week, their gaze on everything from Airbus's $400 million double-decker A380s to smaller essentials such as life jackets, inflight entertainment systems and coffee-makers for catering services.

But it is mostly a case of window-shopping, as big purchases still are well beyond the reach of Iranian carriers.

“Clearly Iran's aviation industry is in desperate need for new planes and spare parts and other technology necessary for travel in Iran and abroad,” said Theodore Karasik, research director at Dubai think-tank INEGMA. “If sanctions are lifted in this industry, it would be an outstanding humanitarian gesture to the Islamic Republic.”

A large country rich in natural resources and boasting one of the largest populations in the Middle East, the Islamic Republic would in normal circumstances be a flourishing market for air travel.

Instead, Iran's air industry tells a story of worsening safety, grounded aircraft and fare rises, which in turn are curbing demand.

Some Iranian visitors have negotiated deals at the show but are reluctant to talk openly, industry sources said.

“There are quite a lot of Iranians here who are interested in all sectors of the industry. The big Iranian airlines are also here to do business,” said an Iranian visitor at the airshow who called himself Mr. Fa'al. He works for a servicing and spare parts company in Iran.

“The situation is of course difficult but not impossible. We hope it's going to get better under Rouhani, but it all depends on whether they accept Iran's nuclear rights,” he added.

Pray before take-off

There are more than a dozen large airlines operating in Iran and several more fledgling carriers. The state carrier Iran Air has a fleet of about 40 planes including nine Boeing 747 jets, some of which were built before the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

The safety record for the carriers has resulted in most Iranian flights no longer being able to land within the EU.

There were about 14 aircraft crashes involving Iranian planes reported in the decade to January 2011, with hundreds of civilians killed and many more injured.

In October 2011, the pilot of an Iran Air plane averted disaster by landing without the forward landing gear. But for his skill, the tragic statistics could have been worse.

The head of one private Iranian airline recently said most of Iran's passenger planes were out of service.

“More than 60 percent of Iran's (passenger) airplanes in the country which have the average age of 22 years are grounded because of technical and logistical problems,” said Cyrus Baheri, director general of Iran Airtours airline.

Airline officials periodically announce the purchase of second-hand Airbus aircraft, mostly older A320 and A340 models, and are also heavily reliant on Russian-built passengers planes.

New hope

The airline sanctions were put in place under President Bill Clinton in 1995. During nuclear negotiations last year, the international powers - United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany - held out the prospect of relief from the airline sanctions if Tehran curbed its nuclear program.

Since the election of Rouhani, there has even been talk of attempts to resume direct flights to the United States.

Earlier this week, the head of Iran's Civil Aviation Organization, Ali Reza Jahangirian, said everything was ready for the resumption of direct flights and it was simply a question of waiting for the government's final approval.

“We are currently waiting for the cue from the country's political authorities to put the flight into operation,” he said, Fars news agency reported.

However, such statements overlook myriad issues that need to be ironed out before such a route could be re-established. Safety is likely to be a significant obstacle, as are sanctions that bar all financial transactions between U.S. and Iranian companies, unless given exemption.

But some remain upbeat and await the green light.

“Upon lifting of sanctions there will not only be aircraft orders but various purchases... a vast spending spree on life jackets for the existing fleet, landing gear, aircraft engines, training and even flight maps, to name a few,” said an aviation consultant whose clients include Iranian carriers.

Mahan Air, one of the leading Iranian airlines, said it was very hopeful of the ongoing talks.

“We are very encouraged by the diplomatic discussions taking place. Sanctions have made the purchase of spare parts and new aircraft challenging,” said the airline spokesman. “Hopefully, the easing of sanctions will give us an opportunity to offer more destinations to our passengers,” he added.

You May Like

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

Taliban's New Leader Says Jihad Will Continue

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs