Iran Air has masterfully kept an aging fleet in the air, despite economic and politics sanctions that prohibit the airline from dealing directly with Boeing and Airbus to maintain and update their aircraft.
With strict sanctions in place, Iran Air has previously found ways to update its fleet, most recently in October 2010 when it began replacing aging Soviet era Tupolev TU-154s, operated by Iran Air Tours, with Boeing MD-80s aircraft. Iran Air Tour’s ‘new’ Boeing MD-80 aircraft were all acquired from China Southern Airlines, but indirectly through an intermediary in the Ukraine to get around economic and political roadblocks.
Now as Iran Air moves towards being a privatized airline, focused on modernization and profitability, the company is updating its fleet of nine aging Boeing 747SP, 747-100 and 747-200 aircraft. Seven of Iran Air’s 747s were delivered directly from Boeing between October 1976 and January 1982, with two additional aircraft being purchased through intermediaries following sanctions against Iran being established. An aging fleet, no matter how masterfully maintained, is problematic … especially when an airline is unable to acquire parts from the aircraft manufacturer, which has caused Iran Air to aggressively seek options to update its fleet.
Iran Air will begin replacing one Boeing 747-186B, first flying on February 8th 1979, and two 747-286B aircraft, first flying on March 14th 1977 and November 1st 1982, with three Boeing 747-338, all originally delivered to Australia’s Qantas Airways between March 1985 and April 1987. These three aircraft have been acquired from Al Sayegh Airlines, a UAE owned airline, with no flight operations, that is based in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.
The first Boeing 747-338 to join Iran Air first flew on the 19th of March 1986; the following two 747-338 aircraft will join the airline in May.
The arrival of the ‘new’ 747s into Iran Air’s fleet will come with some challenges. The airline is familiar with maintaining their 747 fleet’s Pratt & Whitney JT9D engines without support from Boeing or Pratt and Whitney, however these new aircraft are equipped with Rolls Royce RB-211 engines, an engine not found in Iran Air’s fleet.
For an airline that is cut off from primary technology, financial and support resources, Iran Air continually moves forward and establishes itself as a viable airline without signs of faltering. It will be interesting to see how the airline advances forward next.