Iran is revitalizing the plan to build its own passenger plane

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Iran is relaunching plans to develop its own passenger plane after the blockade is over conversations to revive the 2015 nuclear deal. Without progress on the nuclear deal, international sanctions preventing Iran from importing new Boeing and Airbus jets are likely to remain in place.

The idea that Iran could build its own aircraft has been raised many times in the past, but plans are rarely very advanced. That has not deterred President Ebrahim Raisi, who called for renewed efforts during a June 16 visit to the Iran Aircraft Manufacturing Industrial Company (Hesa) in the city of Isfahan. Pictures from the visit showed Raisi inspecting helicopters, small propeller-driven aircraft and jets manufactured for the Iranian Air Force.

According to local media reportsRaisi ordered the company to design and manufacture passenger planes with at least 72 seats “in the near future.”

The plan is due to be ratified by the cabinet but has already been followed up by Minister of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics, Brigadier General Mohammad-Reza Gharaei Ashtiani. A few days after After Raisi’s visit, Ashtiani wrote to Brigadier General Afshin Khajefard, chief executive of Iran Aviation Industries Organization, Hesa’s parent company, urging him to follow Raisi’s orders.

The plan appears to be similar to a previous policy under the administration of then-President Hassan Rouhani, under which Iran’s Aviation Technology Development Headquarters (IATDH) was to develop a 72-seat passenger jet. Officials had indicated planes would be ready by 2021, but a lack of government funding meant the project made limited progress.

Also, in February 2021, the Civil Aviation Organization of Iran (CAO). announced plans to start domestic production of a 100-seat passenger aircraft, but since then there has been no further news about it.

Iran has limited experience in manufacturing its own aircraft. In the past it had license agreement with Antonov of Ukraine to build the 52-seat Iran-140 (based on Antonov’s AN-140), but the program was plagued by low production numbers and several crashes.

Hesa is also responsible for manufacturing components for Iran’s aging fleet of fighter jets to keep them flying amid international sanctions that make importing genuine parts impossible.

Iran has suffered multiple fighter jet losses in recent weeks, most recently one crash an F-14 on June 18 in Isfahan province. The pilot and co-pilot were ejected prior to the crash but sustained injuries.

On May 23, an F-7 jet crashed in the same province, killing the crew of two on board. An F-5 in February crashed near a school in the north-western city of Tabriz in East Azerbaijan province – in this incident the two crew members were killed along with a civilian.

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