Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization has grounded all five of Aseman Airlines’ remaining ATR turboprops pending a thorough safety check following the February 18 crash of one of the carrier’s ATR 72-200s, according to the country’s official IRNA news agency. The 66-seat airplane had taken off from Tehran on a scheduled flight to the southwestern Iranian city of Yasuj when it struck a mountaintop in central Iran during a period of poor visibility, killing all 65 people aboard. The ATR reportedly had re-entered service just months ago after a seven-year grounding due to lack of parts availability. The airline, however, already has ruled out technical failure, instead blaming weather conditions. Weather reports indicated high winds and fog in the area at the time of the crash.
Helicopters and drones took more than two days to find the site of the wreckage and by the end of the week rescue crews continued to fight severely difficult climbing conditions due to heavy snow and winds. Official reports indicate that although recovery crews had found 45 bodies as of Thursday, the weather conditions prevented them from transporting them to base camp, and all efforts to recover more bodies and the airplane’s flight data and voice recorders had come to a halt.
Aseman Airlines, which flies an eclectic fleet of aging aircraft that fell into disrepair during a sanctions regime that barred Western parts from entering the country, last year signed a firm order for 30 Boeing 737 Max narrowbodies after the Obama Administration lifted the restrictions in return for concessions related to Iran’s nuclear testing program.
Boeing, however, has yet to deliver an airplane either to Aseman or Iran Air, which placed an order in December 2016 that calls for delivery of fifty 737 Max 8s, fifteen 777-300ERs and fifteen 777-9s, as the Trump Administration threatens to reinstate some or all of the sanctions.