Aerei da Trasporto Regionale, better known as Franco-Italian planemaker ATR, has been granted permission to supply parts to Iran by the US Office of Foreign Asset Control. This comes as positive news to Iran Air in particular; it operates a fleet of 13 ATR-72s.
According to reporting in Air Transport World today, the US Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) has given ATR permission to supply spares to Iran. This is despite current sanctions imposed by President Trump last August which prevent any Western companies from supplying Iran with goods and services.
This will come as a great relief to flag-carrying airline Iran Air, who operates 13 ATR 72s in its fleet and has struggled to obtain parts and tools to keep them flying.
The permission was actually granted back in April but has been kept pretty quiet since then. It’s only now that it has begun to be reported by the world’s media. An ATR spokesperson issued a statement to Simple Flying, saying,
“In April 2019, ATR was granted a license for the support of the Iran Air fleet (13 aircraft) from the OFAC.
“This license authorises ATR, in compliance with its terms, to export parts, components and tools, update software and provide technology, necessary to ensure the safe operation of the aircraft. The license expires on the 30 April 2021.”
Although this is a time-limited permission, it does mean that airlines in Iran operating ATR aircraft can now access the parts and tools they need to maintain safety and functionality. Unfortunately for ATR, the permission does not include supplying Iran Air with the remaining seven aircraft that are still outstanding on order.
Iran Air’s ATR fleet
Iran Air has had 20 ATR 72-600 turboprop aircraft on order from the manufacturer since 2016. Deliveries were planned to begin in 2017 and, following a slight delay, the first four arrived in a bulk delivery on May 16th 2017.
As former president Barak Obama had lifted the sanctions on Iran in January 2016, there was no great rush for the rest of the order. That was until the administration changed. On May 8th, 2018, following the US withdrawing from the nuclear agreement with Iran, the Trump administration reestablished the sanctions.
In the days leading up to the sanctions being reinstated, ATR did all they could to get the bulk of Iran Air’s order fulfilled. Eight had already been delivered, and on August 5th, a further five arrived in convoy from the Franco-Italian firm, taking the fleet to its current level of 13. Reports suggest that a further three could have been delivered had the sanctions been delayed by 24 hours.
For ATR, not being able to supply the final seven aircraft has been a massive blow. At the time, ATR expected to deliver 80 aircraft in 2018, 12 of which were for Iran Air. Although Trump had given suppliers a three-month window to deliver any goods already in production, the then CEO Christian Scherer said, “For the aviation industry, this three-month period is ridiculously short.”
Other Iranian operators
Of the 15 commercial airlines operating in Iran, only one other has any ATR aircraft in its fleet. Iran Aseman Airlines has just two ATR 72s in its fleet, but serves as a painful reminder of the dangers of leaving operators incapable of maintaining their aircraft.
On February 18th, 2018, Flight 3704 flying from Tehran to Yasuj using an ATR 72-200 crashed into the Zagros Mountains. All 66 people on board were killed.
Kish Air doesn’t have any ATR aircraft in its fleet right now, but had previously said that they planned to order six aircraft from the manufacturer. This was in April 2017, before the sanctions were reinstated.
The rest of the carriers operate a mix of aircraft, including Airbus, Boeing and McDonnell Douglas planes. These airlines are unable to secure replacement parts for their aircraft and are left in the position of needing to cannibalize some planes to keep others flying.
While the relaxation of restrictions on ATR is good news for the flag-carrying Iranian airline, others such as Mahan Air, Iran Aseman, Zagros and Qeshm are still left high and dry with unserviceable fleets.