Economy, Business And Markets

From Delivery to Tehran Landing

The new Airbus A321 airliner landed in Tehran’s Mehrabad Airport on Jan. 12.
The new Airbus A321 airliner landed in Tehran’s Mehrabad Airport on Jan. 12.
The jet had been ordered by another country that cancelled the order due to financial problems, but the plane is brand new and it had made no flights before being delivered to Iran

After an Airbus A321 airliner landed in Tehran’s Mehrabad Airport on January 12, a ceremony was held to mark the occasion.

The jet is part of a total of 200 planes Iran has ordered from western planemakers, following the lifting of sanctions against the Islamic Republic over its nuclear program.

Minister of Roads and Urban Development Abbas Akhoundi, Iran Air CEO Farhad Parvaresh and Airbus CEO Fabrice Bregier praised the delivery in the ceremony.

Before this event, Iran had not directly purchased a western-built plane in nearly 40 years.

Captain Hamzeh Farhadi had accompanied the Iranian team, comprising representatives from the Ministry of Roads and Urban Development and Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization, to take delivery of the jet. He is the first pilot to have flown Iran’s brand new Airbus.

In an interview with the Persian daily Shahrvand, Farhadi said he first travelled to Hamburg, Germany, where the jet was assembled, before taking the plane to Toulouse, France, where the plane was officially handed over. Below is the full text of the interview:

Shahrvand: How was the pilot for the new aircraft chosen?

I’ve been flying Airbus A321’s for nine years and I teach younger pilots how to fly this type of jet. Iran Air chose three trainers with different specialties, including an operations manager and a fleet manager, and I was one of them.


Do different types of aircraft require a special pilot?

Yes, it takes a specialist to fly different types of jets.

 On the Airbus website, a flight to Hamburg has been recorded. Didn’t you come to Iran from France?

The jet was assembled in Hamburg, Germany. That’s where we went first to take delivery and from there we flew to Toulouse, France, where the Airbus headquarters is located.

 Why was it assembled in Hamburg?

That’s where the assembly site for A320 and A380 aircraft is located. Therefore, Iran Air’s plane was assembled there.

So this has nothing to do with the purchased aircraft being initially intended for another buyer who rejected it?

I don’t know where that rumor came from. The purchased aircraft was never rejected and as it’s seen in the video of the delivery ceremony, the jet was assembled and painted in Hamburg and then delivered to Iran.

 Does this mean our plane was not even initially ordered by another country?

What actually happened was the jet had been ordered by another country but they later cancelled the order due to financial problems. Now, even the seats are designed according to what that country had placed its order. However, the plane is brand new. It had made no flights before being delivered to Iran.

 Did the additional options ordered by that country impose any extra expenses on us?

No, but we must take note of one thing. We can benefit from ordering all the additional options ourselves. When all ordered planes have the same appearance and similar options, their maintenance will cost us less. That is separate orders to different companies for maintenance and renovation of each jet will be more costly.

For example, if we want to change the planes’ seat covers, it will be cheaper and the order registration process will be shorter when all the planes in the fleet have the same seats.

As a pilot, did you find flying a brand new jet different from flying a secondhand one?

As I mentioned before, I had already flown Airbus 321 types but those were all secondhand. The new jet is the latest generation of Airbus 321.

 So what’s the difference between the latest generation and the older models?

The cockpit is no different from other Airbuses and I was familiar with it. The difference lies in the options and facilities provided for the passengers.

 What are these options exactly?

They have provided entertainment for passengers. For example, there’s a monitor behind each seat and passengers can see the flight route live or watch movies. They can listen to music and charge their electronic devices. It also has flat-bed seats and these are part of the facilities.

 What were you thinking of at the time of the delivery?

I had an indescribably strange feeling. Four decades of tough sanctions had been lifted. The delivery of this Airbus evoked a wonderful feeling in me. Love of one’s homeland doesn’t let you be indifferent toward something like this.

 What attracted your attention the first time you entered the plane?

The first thing I noticed was the smell of a new plane. Up until that day, all the planes I had taken delivery of were used. This was the first time I was taking delivery of a newly-built jet and like a brand new car it had the special smell of newness.

 Did you visit the Airbus company too?

Yes, and it was the first time I was seeing it up close. The eye-catching technology and expertise of the workers aside, what was particularly interesting was the Iranian experts who were working there.

 What do the Iranians do in Airbus?

They were the top brass. Even one of them was part of the 10-member team who negotiated Airbus sales with Iran.

 What was their opinion on the lifting of Iran’s aviation sanctions?

They too were very happy about the removal of the long-lasting aviation industry sanctions and spoke enthusiastically about Iran’s brand new plane. It was obvious that despite being away from their homeland, they cared deeply about Iran and its progress.

 Was there anything that upset you at the time of delivery?

Plane delivery comes with ceremonial formalities, which are commonplace for Airbus’s typical buyers. But unfortunately, we felt rather confused and alienated from all this as all we got throughout the years were secondhand planes. It was there that I was filled with indignation and resentment at the unfair sanctions imposed against Iran.

 Who did you bring to Iran as the first passengers of the new aircraft?

The first passengers were Airbus CEO Fabrice Bregier and Iran Air CEO Farhad Parvaresh, along with an Airbus team. About 15 people came to Iran with me. But they were [mostly] our guests.

The first passengers of this plane are going to be the families of martyrs and the war-disabled Iranians who will be going on a pilgrimage from Tehran to the holy city of Mashhad.

[The new Airbus performed its maiden flight on Tuesday by taking off from the capital city Tehran and landing in Mashhad with 200 passengers on board. The interview was held before this flight.]

 Who was the person waving the flag from the new Airbus [upon landing in Tehran]?

That was Captain Shahbazi, one of the pilots of the plane, who was elated at the safe landing of the new plane on the runway and waved the Iranian flag out of the cockpit window.

In what routes the new jet is going to fly?

The plane will be flying in domestic routes from Tehran to Kermanshah, Bushehr and Bandar Abbas for three months and after that it will do foreign flights.

 Who do you thing Iran’s aviation industry owes to the most given the long years of sanctions?

We are indebted, most of all, to technical experts who fixed and maintained [our old] planes. With their vast knowledge and expertise, they enabled our aviation sector to remain on its feet and make numerous safe flights during the years Iranians used worn-out airplanes.

 How many years can the new plane fly before it needs to be repaired?

It will not need repair for 8 to 10 years. As you know, our fleet is 23 years old on average and during all these years our technical and maintenance experts have done their best to keep our fleet up and running as per global standards.

 Are there planes in our domestic fleet that have gone out of production?

There are a few of them, including Boeings 747, 727, 337, whose newer generations are now being built. And then there is Fokker 100 as well as certain Airbus models that have gone out of production but still remain in our fleet as we have [until now] been unable to replace them due to sanctions.


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