39 killed in Iran airplane crash

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A civilian airliner has crashed moments after it took off from Iran’s
capital Tehran, on Sunday, killing at least 39 people on board and narrowly avoiding more fatalities on the ground. Iran-140
Sepahan Air passenger plane crashed after takeoff from Tehran’s
Mehrabad airport on a flight to Tabas in northeast Iran, state
media reported.

According to Reuters, Initial reports said that all of the 48
passengers and crew had been killed, but state media later
reported that some passengers had been injured and transferred to
hospital.

Islamic Republic News Agency said that eight or nine had survived
and quoted a doctor as saying that one of the injured had regained
consciousness.

Iran’s airlines have been plagued by crashes, which Iranian
politicians blame on international sanctions that block the airlines
from replacing their aging fleets. About 14 crashes involving
Iranian planes were reported in the decade to January 2011.
President Hassan Rouhani ordered a halt to all flights of the
Iran-140 pending full investigation, IRNA said.

The pilot detected technical issues four minutes after takeoff and
tried to return to the airport, state television said, but the twin-
engine turboprop crashed on a road at 9.18 am local time. One
eyewitness said the plane crashed into a wall.

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State television said 37 people died instantly, two died on the way
to hospital and nine others were undergoing medical treatment.
The Civil Aviation Authority said the passengers included two
infants and three children under the age of 12, IRNA reported.
Mashallah Shakibi, 63, a former member of parliament from Tabas
was among the fatalities, according to reports from the Iranian
state news channel IRINN.

One survivor said he was saved by jumping through a hole in the
plane’s body created by a blast. “The force of the blast threw us
out of the plane,” Mohammad Abedzadeh was quoted as saying on
IRINN’s website. “Seconds later, I saw the entire plane in flames,”
he said through tears.

A photograph on IRNA’s website showed a huge plume of black
smoke billowing over traffic standing at a road intersection. A
photograph from the Iranian Student News Agency showed a
charred tail fin lying on the ground.

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The plane’s black box was found according to IRNA reports.
Authorities are investigating the cause of the crash.
For years, planes have been kept in service through parts imported
on the black market, cannibalised from other planes or reproduced
locally, aviation sources say.

Iran’s four largest carriers – Iran Air, Iran Aseman Airlines, Mahan
Air and Iran Air Tours – all have average fleet ages above 22
years, Iranian media have reported. They serve a market of 76
million people.

US companies Boeing Co and General Electric Co have said they
are seeking to export parts to Iran under the agreement for
sanctions relief.

The chief of Iran Air said the airline will need at least 100
passenger jets once sanctions against the country are lifted.
The plane that crashed – an Iran-140 – is a locally assembled
version of the Antonov-140. Its safety record has come into
question in the past.

In December 2002, an Iran-140 test flight crashed, killing at least
46 people, including engineers who had helped design it. The
government said human error caused the crash, but many
expressed worries about the aircraft.

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More than a dozen large airlines and several fledgling carriers
operate in Iran. 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 led to most Iranian flights
being prevented from landing in the EU.

Mehrabad is located in a western suburb of Tehran and mainly
functions as a domestic airport, although it also serves some
international routes.