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Rolls Royce vs. Gaari
Flying unreliable Russian aircraft

By Etminan
February 21, 2002
The Iranian

On February 8, an Iranian Tupolev 154 with 117 passengers crashed in southwestern Iran.The plane was operated by Iran Air Tours when it crashed in the mountains as it was preparing to land at Khorramabad on a domestic flight from Tehran. 

This has been one among many tragedies that have afflicted an airline with a lot of potential. An airline that nearly purchased the Concord in the 70's is forced to fly aged Boeings or unreliable Russian aircraft.

It was a tragic reminder of the poor state of the Iranian airline industry. After the revolution, the safety of Iran Air and its affiliate airlines has been affected due to lack of spare parts and an aging fleet that may not be replaced in a long time. Will this be the last crash in a very long time? History may prove different.


Flying the Tupolev is like flying a Peykan. If Boeing is the Rolls Royce of the skies, the Tupolev would be the equivalent of a "Gaari" (wagon). Tupolevs have a poor safety record built with old Russian technology. And the Tupolev is just pure ugly. When I saw a picture of one I realized why my chubby childhood friend was called 'Topolof" in in primary school.

The first tragedy I remember came in the late 70's during the revolution when an Iran Air plane crashed in the mountains near Mashhad killing everyone on board. The crash was blamed on poor air traffic control, probably due to the chaos of the early days of the revolution.  In 1993, another Tupolev collided with a fighter jet and crashed, killing all aboard.

Most of Iran Air's fleet consisted of American Boeings. Although state of the art in their own time, especially the 747-SP, today they are considered outdated. The challenge is how to maintain these aged aircraft. Lack of spare parts is making it difficult. Because of the U.S. embargo, Iran Air cannot purchase Boeings and therefore forced to purchase cheaper Russian Tupolevs. I haven't flown in one, but according to a friend who flew one in Iran, "It's the donkey ride of a lifetime."

Iran has been in the process of purchasing four Airbus A330-300s from France. As far as I know this has not happened. Probably for political reasons. The fact that some of the Airbus parts are made in the U.S. may have something do with it. Another explanation may be the constant pressure of the U.S. on European countries.

The Airbus A33-300 is a beautiful airplane. I had the pleasure of flying one on an Air Canada flight recently. The two engine plane can fly up to sixteen hours without refueling The Rolls Royce engines are practically noise-free, making me feel unaware we were air bound.

The Iranian government must make an attempt to improve safety of Iran's airlines. It is time to maximize safety for every Iranian flying within Iran or abroad

Comment for The Iranian letters section
Comment for the writer Mahyar Etminan


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