Western aerospace executives may be wary about attending the Iran airshow, but will be missing out on a great future business opportunity if they don’t go, according to the event’s organizers. The show is scheduled from November 28 to December 1 at the Kish Island Free Trade Zone–located close to Dubai and one of the main trading links between Iran and its neighbors in the Gulf.
“One of the most important goals of this airshow from my standpoint,” explained Dr. Bijan Bonakhdar, director of the airshow’s organizational committee, “is seeing the show as a vehicle to make western firms understand their interest–and not just Iran’s interest–in lifting the embargo on the sale of western commercial and passenger aircraft to Iranian air carriers that was imposed after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. If Boeing and Airbus were allowed to sell their products in Iran, the potential market would be as much as $40 billion over the next 8 to 10 years.”
Bonakhdar admits that in the first two shows he sometimes had trouble getting the full support of all of the elements of Iran’s aerospace community to participate, but that now the situation has changed. Though President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may have deeply unsettled western governments, he is serious about revitalizing Iran’s aerospace industry and modernizing its fleets of passenger aircraft, according to Bonakhdar.
“This is both a national development issue and one of humanitarian considerations,” he explained further. “Iran needs reliable internal air links in order to grow its economy and maintain its substantial energy industry. For the country to be using so many old aircraft that needed to be replaced long ago is not just a question of being out of compliance with ICAO standards–it is very dangerous for the flying public and not consistent with the western concept of showing great concern for human life.”
And according to Iranian representatives here at Farnborough International, there is an economic factor as well. The increases in oil prices have given Iran an infusion of money that has boosted some parts of the economy. “If we are given the chance to buy Boeing or Airbus aircraft we will have the money to pay for them, which was not always the case,” one official told Aviation International News.
It is that chance to cash in on the much-anticipated “opening up” of Iran to the outside world that the U.S. will be squandering, said another Iranian aerospace official, if there is military action taken against Iran. “Iran still has facilities–some of them more than 25 years old–for the support of Boeing 747s, Hercules C-130s, Grumman F-14s, etc.,” he observed. “The people in both the civil and military aircraft communities want to buy American. They have had their experience with Russian aircraft–both fighters and airliners–in the 1990s and they are not happy with them, which is why there have been almost no follow-on orders.”
What could result from a U.S. attack, he continued to say, “is that these people in Iran–many of whom are getting on in years and are close to retirement–would be moved out and replaced with those from another generation who are not so wedded to the idea that American technology is the best there is. It could end up–in the sense of what opportunities could be lost afterwards–being the most expensive military operation in U.S. history.”
This is a rather daunting list of objectives to be fulfilled by just one airshow, but Bonakhdar and his colleagues are hopeful that they can achieve some positive ends. “The important aspect of the airshow is that it is a window for people to talk to one another. The more we can keep talking, the better the chances that the current U.S.-Iran conflict can be resolved in a non-violent manner.”