The Story Behind IranAir’s Concorde Order

At the peak of the Concorde’s development in 1972, several airlines around the world placed orders for the game-changing aircraft. One airline, IranAir, had an order for two supersonic planes and an option for one more. What was the history of this order, and what could have been?

IranAir Concorde
A mockup of what an IranAir Concorde could have looked like. Original photo: SpaceAero2 via Wikimedia

Why did IranAir order the Concorde?

Our story begins back in 8th October 1972, when IranAir signed an order for two Concordes and an option for a third.

Iran made the order as a diplomatic move to close ties with France, as part of several other deals featuring products like a nationwide SECAM color television system. Iran would send two pilots to France in 1973 to learn how to fly the Concorde, performing several takeoffs around the Aerospatiale Center in Toulouse, France.

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IranAir would then charter Air France Concordes for several Paris to Teran flights, as well as a trip to Paris-Kish Island. Technically this means that IranAir did operate a Concorde service, despite it being a wet lease operation. The plan was for Iran and its people to get a taste of supersonic travel before the delivery of the first aircraft.

The first IranAir Concorde was due to land in 1976 and the latter option in late 1978. Construction began, and the Concordes were built – but never made it to IranAir.

The deal for the first Middle-East supersonic airline fell through. Photo: Arpingstone via Wikimedia Commons

Why happened to the deal?

In 1978, Iran’s society had an upheaval, and the Shah lost power. Iran’s new leaders saw the expensive Concorde as a luxury item (after all, it wasn’t an aircraft for the everyday person) and a sign of the previous government’s opulence. Later fallout between the West and Iran would have likely forbidden any sale to go through had they wanted to keep the order.

Due to the political turbulence and the oil crisis it created, Iran officially canceled the Concorde orders in April of 1980.

The two IranAir production model Concordes were shifted to the British Airways order and would go on to serve there proudly for the rest of their lifespan.

What could have been?

We have touched lightly before on IranAir and what could have been in a previous article. The airline was essentially Emirates 20-years earlier and could have dominated travel between USA, Europe, and Asia.

IranAir canceling the Concorde may have been a turning point in history. Photo: Getty Images

In particular, had the oil crisis not happened and the IranAir Concorde order gone through, the deal might have breathed life into the design. With the third airline following Air France and British Airways sporting the aircraft and cheap fuel available on the market, other airlines might have decided to pull the trigger and secure their plane – you can read about other airlines that had the aircraft on order here. 

The fallout of this order going through may have had a considerable impact on the industry. Aerospatiale may have built a second version of the Concorde jumpstarting a competitive race for supersonic travel (instead of canceling the Boeing 2707). Europe may have never founded Airbus, and the aviation would have looked very different.

What do you think? Would you have flown on the IranAir Concorde? Let us know in the comments.