Coronavirus hit Iran early and hard, and the virus has continued to rage there. Two months ago Iran estimated they’d had 25 million Covid-19 cases, despite still having fewer than half a million cases lab-confirmed.
Unsurprisingly there’s been little demand for air travel. The nation’s flag carrier Iran Air is auctioning off 12 of its planes, a veritable grab bag of aviation history.
- 3 Airbus A300s
- 2 Airbus A310s
- 2 Boeing 727s
- 5 Boeing 747s (1 -100, 1 -200, 2 SP’s)
Iran Air has continued to operate an ancient fleet, since it’s been largely cut off from the world by sanctions. Here’s an Iran Air 727 five years ago landing without a nose gear. I couldn’t even tell anything was wrong until 20 seconds into the video. But from 28 to 50 seconds it’s amazing.
The value of used aircraft is especially low on the world market, with so many planes grounded around the world during the pandemic. Older aircraft like these, doubly so. (The three Boeing 747SPs date to 1976.) And the realm of possible buyers given Iran sanctions is extremely limited.
As a result it seems likely that the eventual winner of any auction will be another Iranian carrier, and that these planes will just be used for parts rather than operated as part of an active fleet. Keeping old planes in the air without legal access to parts from around the world is a challenge for airlines in the country. The Boeing 747s could be unloaded on the Iranian air force.
Candidates could include Caspian Airlines (IV) for the Boeing 747-100/200, Iran Antour (B9) for the A300 and A310, Mahan Air (W5) for the A300 and A310, Meraj Airlines (UI) for the A300, Qeshm Air (QB) also for the A300, and Taban Air (HH) for the A310.
Iran Air A300 (Current Livery), Copyright: rebius / 123RF Stock Photo
At the end of the Obama administration Iran Air signed a deal for 80 Boeing jets and even could have breathed life into the Airbus A380 but the U.S. re-imposed sanctions. Though importation of aircraft parts is clearly dual civilian-military use, for safety’s sake aircraft over 40 years old with scarce parts is a situation the world should fix.