Domestic Economy

US-Made Copters in Iran

US-Made Copters in Iran US-Made Copters in Iran

Iran has purchased four R44 helicopters from the United States to train local pilots, said Mohammad Azin, managing director of Iran Helicopter Company, in a news conference on Tuesday announcing the establishment Iran’s  first civilian flight school.

The deal was valued at $5.2 million due to dealing with middlemen, he said, adding that in case of no sanctions the helicopters would cost as little as $2 million. 

With the lack of civilian helicopter pilots in Iran, we imported the aircrafts to train a new generation of them. Helicopter pilot training courses are predicted to cost applicants about 2.5 billion rials (around $90,000) based on the cost of R44 fuel, which is about 71,500 rials ($2.6) per liter. 

As the pioneer in domestic civilian pilot training, Iran Helicopter Company will start with 60 civilian pilots aiming to meet international standards by 2015.

The official also lamented that the majority of the current aircraft fleet are outdated and were purchased before the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

After the revolution, the United States imposed various export bans against Iran and further tightened the rules in the following years. Since 1979, no aviation products have been officially supplied to Iran and large swathes of its civilian fleet has been grounded. 

The county possesses one of the oldest fleets in the Middle East and has suffered from a series of aircraft accidents, as sanctions have stopped it from renewing its aging fleet. The four largest carriers, including Iran Air, Aseman Airlines, Mahan Air and Iran Air Tours, together have an average fleet age beyond 22 years.

This difficult situation has left Iranian carriers with no choice but to provide aircraft and spare parts through third party dealers; with significantly higher rates than those sourced on the open market.

Iran has in recent years attempted to develop a localized plane-parts industry, but it lacks the knowhow to create all parts. Authorities say 40-year-old aviation industry has made great achievements in designing aircraft and overhauling the existing aviation fleet. 

Iran has already developed three new helicopter models for training, rescue, and military purposes, Brigadier General Mohammad Ali Ahmadabadi from Helicopter Support and Renewal Company told FNA on Tuesday. The country will also build two new 8 and 14-seater helicopters by March 2015.

Overhauling helicopters has put Iran among a handful of countries including the US, Britain, France, Russia and China which has the capability of keeping fleets going, the official said. 

Iran and the P5+1 are negotiating to find a solution do a decade-long dispute between Tehran and the west over its nuclear energy program. Iran hopes to reach a comprehensive agreement, which will lift sanctions, providing a room for it to purchase aviation parts.

As talks are going on, the Iranian Civil Aviation Organization is increasingly optimistic about the outlook of aviation industry in the near future, and has already expressed eagerness to start acquiring parts directly from western manufacturers.

So far, the United States, France and Germany as well as manufacturers such as Airbus, Boeing and GE have expressed interest in providing spare plane-parts and also to assist Iran with improving safely levels if sanctions are lifted.