Reporting from Beirut – When the managing director of a small, trouble-prone Iranian airline won official permission in March to lease a couple of aging Russian-made airplanes, the country’s small circle of aviation professionals gossiped about the strings he must have pulled to get the government’s approval.
And when one of the planes burst aflame on the runway in late July, killing the executive, Mehdi Dadpay, his son and 14 others, few in the industry were surprised.
“Aria was famous for not adhering to safety standards for years,” said an Iranian aviation industry insider, who spoke extensively to The Times on condition of anonymity. “Every time they had a problem, the managing director knew someone high up in the government who made it possible for Aria to continue as before.”
In the wake of the crash, a government official said the airline’s permission to operate had been revoked.
Iranian officials have long accused the West of playing politics with people’s lives by imposing sanctions that prevent upgrades to the country’s aging aircraft fleet. On Saturday, an Iranian aviation official called the sanctions an “act against humanity.” But the aviation insider charged that authorities in Tehran