66 passengers feared dead after plane crashes into Iranian mountains

Chukwuemeka Anoh | February 20, 2018
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A commercial plane crashed on Sunday in a foggy, mountainous region of Iran, most likely killing all 66 people on board, the state news media reported.

The flight was reportedly carrying 60 passengers, including one child, and six crew members when it crashed into the side of Mount Dena near the remote town of Semirom, around 390 miles south of the capital, Tehran.

The ATR-72, a twin-engine turboprop used for short-distance regional flying, was on its way to the city of Yasuj in the country’s south.

Mohammad Taghi Tabatabai, a spokesman for Aseman Airlines, initially told state television that everyone aboard the ATR-72, a twin-engine turboprop used for short-distance regional flights, had been killed.

The airline later issued a statement saying it could not reach the crash site and could not “accurately and definitely confirm” everyone had died.

But fog prevented rescue helicopters from reaching the site in the Zagros Mountains, state TV reported. Mr. Tabatabai said the plane had crashed into Mount Dena, which has an elevation of about 14,500 feet.

News reports said the plane disappeared from radar screens 50 minutes after taking off from Mehrabad International Airport, in western Tehran, which mainly serves domestic flights but has some international routes.

The Iranian Red Crescent has been deployed to the area, but nobody has yet found the crash site, officials say.
The carrier, Aseman Airlines, is a semi-private firm headquartered in Tehran that specialises in flights to remote airfields across the country. It also flies internationally.
The carrier has a fleet of 29 aircraft, including six aircraft from the Franco-Italian manufacturer ATR, according to FlightRadar24, a plane-tracking website. It is Iran’s third-largest airline by fleet size, behind state carrier Iran Air and Mahan Air.

Under decades of international sanctions, Iran’s commercial passenger aircraft fleet has aged, with air accidents occurring regularly in recent years.
The sanctions have prevented the oil-rich country from updating its fleet, forcing it to use substandard Russian planes and to patch up older jets far past their normal years of service, drawing on spare parts bought on the black market.

Following the 2015 landmark nuclear deal with world powers, Iran signed deals with both Airbus and Boeing to buy scores of passenger planes.
In April 2017, ATR sealed a $536m (£382m) sale with Iran Air for at least 20 aircraft. Chicago-based Boeing also signed a $3bn deal that month to sell 30 737 MAX aircraft to Aseman Airlines.

In 2014, a locally built Iranian passenger plane crashed shortly after takeoff from Mehrabad Airport, killing 39 people and reviving questions about the safety of an aviation sector hobbled by sanctions.
That plane was based on a relatively obscure Ukrainian design that had been involved in previous Iranian air disasters. The Sepahan Air regional airliner, bound for Tabas in eastern Iran, went down in a residential area shortly after takeoff at 9:20 a.m.


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