|Rolls Royce vs. Gaari
Flying unreliable Russian aircraft
February 21, 2002
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art in their own time, especially the 747-SP, today they are considered outdated.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