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Aviation

Passenger plane crashes into fog-smothered mountain in Iran, killing all 65 people on board

Reports identified the plane as an ATR-72. It said the plane was flying from Tehran to the southern Iranian city of Yasuj

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 February, 2018, 3:51pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 February, 2018, 10:53pm

An Iranian commercial plane crashed on Sunday in a foggy, mountainous region of southern Iran, killing all 65 people on board, state media reported. Officials reduced the earlier toll by one as someone missed the flight.

An Aseman Airlines ATR-72, a twin-engined turboprop used for short-distance regional flying, went down near its destination of the southern Iranian city of Yasuj, some 780km (485 miles) south of the Iranian capital, Tehran.

Aseman Airlines spokesman Mohammad Taghi Tabatabai told state television that all on flight EP3704 were killed.

“After searching the area, we learned that unfortunately … our dear passengers had lost their lives,” Tabatabai said.

Due to foggy condition, rescue helicopters could not reach the crash site in the Zagros Mountains, state television said. Tabatabai said the plane crashed into Mount Dena, which is about 4,400 metres (14,435 feet) tall.

Aseman Airlines, owned by Iran’s civil service pension foundation, is a semi-private air carrier based in Tehran that specialises in flights to remote airfields across the country. It also flies internationally. It is Iran’s third-largest airline by fleet size, behind state carrier Iran Air and Mahan Air. However, Aseman Airlines is banned from flying in the European Union because of safety concerns.

The carrier has a fleet of 29 aircraft, including six ATR aircraft, according to FlightRadar24, a plane-tracking website. The ATR-72 that crashed on Sunday was built in 1993, Aseman Airlines CEO Ali Abedzadeh told state television.

The plane took off from Tehran at 0433 GMT and gave its last signal at 0555 GMT, when the flight was at 16,975 feet and descending, FlightRadar24 said.

Aseman Airlines has suffered other major crashes with fatalities. In October 1994, a twin-propeller Fokker F-28 1000 commuter plane flown by the airline crashed near Natanz, 290km (180 miles) south of Tehran, killing 66 people. An Aseman Airlines chartered flight in August 2008, flown by an Itek Air Boeing 737, crashed in Kyrgyzstan, killing 74 people.

The Iranian Red Crescent said it deployed a team to the area. Authorities said they would be investigating. Locals described hearing the crash, though no one had found the crash site yet, according to state television.

European aeroplane manufacturer ATR, a Toulouse, France-based partnership of Airbus and Italy’s Leonardo S.p.A., said it had no immediate information about the crash. The manufacturer specialises in regional turboprop aircraft of 90 seats or less.

Under decades of international sanctions, Iran’s commercial passenger aircraft fleet has aged, with air accidents occurring regularly in recent years.

Following the 2015 landmark nuclear deal with world powers, Iran signed deals with both Airbus and Boeing to buy scores of passenger planes worth tens of billions of dollars.

Home to 80 million people, Iran represents one of the last untapped aviation markets in the world. However, Western analysts are sceptical that there is demand for so many jets or available financing for deals worth billions of dollars.

In April 2017, ATR sealed a US$536-million sale with Iran Air for at least 20 aircraft. Chicago-based Boeing signed a US$3 billion deal that month to sell 30 737 MAX aircraft to Aseman Airlines.