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  • Hurdles Await Iran's Planned Russian Airliner Purchase
    Posted by Robert Wall 9:13 AM on Dec 29, 2011

    With Iran facing sanctions in its political standoff with Europe and the U.S. over Tehran's nuclear weapons ambitions, the government is turning to Russia to try to modernize its ailing commercial air transport fleet.

    Negotiations to purchase Sukhoi and Tupolev airliners are already underway, transport minister Ali Nikzad says according to one of Iran's official news agencies, Fars. The exact types are not identified, but likely include the Superjet regional jet and Tu-204.

    Whether the latest overture is merely an effort to curry favor with Moscow at a time Tehran is increasingly politically isolated or a serious effort to buy aircraft remains to be seen. A spate of accidents has seen older Tupolev narrowbodies phased out in the country and years of sanctions mean the country's airliner fleet is seriously aging -- all but 14 A300s, 8 A310s and 1 737 of Iran Air's aircraft are banned from flying into the EU under that region's blacklist program.

    Regardless of what Iran wants to do, though, any deal faces export control constraints.

    For instance, Iran had sought to acquire Tu-204SMs for Iran Air Tours, but that deal fell through because of U.S. connections to the PS-90A2 engines developed with the help of Pratt & Whitney. The Superjet also has plenty of western content -- both in the engine and the avionics -- so any deal for those aircraft could also be nixed.

    So no matter what Tehran may decide to buy, actually taking delivery of the aircraft may be much more complex than officials currently admit.

    Tags: tw99, Iran

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