Monday, January 25, 2010

Reza Nakhjavani, head of Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization, has publicly stated that he blames yesterday’s jet crash on pilot error. Nobody was killed when the Tupolev Tu-154 crash-landed and caught fire on the runway.

Media reports at the time said the aircraft was performing an emergency landing in Mashad owing to a passenger requiring medical attention. Nakhjavani said that he is yet to see confirmation of this passenger’s existance, and accused the pilot of placing one life before over 150 others; there were a combined 170 passengers and crew aboard.

The Taban Air plane then crashed in the fog and caught fire. The aircraft sustained a tailstrike followed by landing gear failure and the right wing breaking. Forty-six people were injured and the Tu-154 burned on the runway. Nakhjavani claimed the pilot’s actions were illegal and he had no clearance to land, also blaming Air Taban and stating they were negligent.

Hamid Behbahani, Minister of Roads and Transportation, also blamed “human error” for both the air crash and a train accident the same day that killed nine people. However, he stated that the foggy weather conditions also played a role in the plane crash. Taban’s license is currently suspended.

Iran uses a number of Russian and Soviet-built aircraft, particularly Tupolevs. In recent years these have had a high accident rate. Last year a Tu-154 crash killed 168 people shortly after takeoff from Tehran heading to Yerevan, Armenia. It was the worst accident in Iranian aviation history. RIA Novosti has stated that this fleet is aging and in urgent need of maintenance and repair work, while Iran blames international sanctions which they claim prevent the import of spare parts except low-quality products from Russia.

Regardless of the causes of the problems Iran has experienced with its Tupolevs, the nation today banned the import of any more Tupolev Tu-154 aircraft. Meanwhile, Russia has sent a team from the Interstate Aviation Committee to assist investigations. Under the Convention on International Civil Aviation the state which manufactured an aircraft typically asists any probe into an accident involving it.

The Interstate Aviation Committee was set up after the collapse of the Soviet Union to replace the single body in place accross the USSR. If Iran concludes negligent pilot error was indeed to blame then the country cannot sanction the flight crew since they are employed by Russia’s Federal Aviation Service. The Russian party to the investigation issues flight is responsible for licensing pilots.