Iran bans old Tupolevs from flying: report
Iran has barred four domestic airlines from operating old Soviet-produced Tupolev airplanes after a string of accidents involving the aircraft, the Mehr news agency reported on Saturday.
Reza Nakhjavani, head of Iran's Civil Aviation Organisation, said in a letter to these airlines, which still operate Tupolev TU154 jets, to stop flying them from February 20.
The ban applies to 17 TU154 planes which are currently in service with Iran Air Tour, Kish Air, Taban and Caspian airlines, the Mehr report said.
"Considering the recent accidents and the expiry date of February 19 for the TU154 aircraft to be in service... (you are to) strongly refrain from scheduling flights with this type of aircraft," Nakhjavani said in the letter dated January 10.
Iran, which has been under years of international sanctions, operates an ancient civil and military fleet, which also includes many US-built Boeings acquired before the 1979 Islamic revolution.
Iranian airlines have suffered several aviation disasters involving small companies using Soviet aircraft.
In July 2009, a Tupolev caught fire in mid-air and plunged flaming into farmland northeast of Tehran, killing all 168 people on board.
The most recent accident claimed the lives of 77 passengers when a Boeing 727 airliner with state-run Iran Air crashed near the northwestern city of Orumiyeh on January 9.
But Iran's worst air accident was when a plane carrying members of the elite Revolutionary Guards crashed in February 2003, killing 302 people on board.
© 2011 AFP