Another Aviation Scapegoat
10 Oct 2009 00:03
[ comment ] Mohammad Ali Ilkhani, head of the Iranian Civil Aviation Organization (IR-CAO), was let go after only two and half months in the job. He is being replaced by Reza Nakhjavani, CEO of Kish Airlines, a private airline. Nakhjavani, who is rumored to be close to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's brother, has been the choice of deputy minister of transportation since spring.
Ilkhani's job as head of the IR-CAO was not an easy one. On the very first day of his appointment, Caspian Airline's Tu-154 M aircraft crashed after take off, killing all on board. A week later Aria Airline's IL-62 aircraft crashed while landing; at least 17 people were killed including 14 crew members and the company's CEO. A few days later, a Saha Airlines B-707 lost two of its engines while taking off. Luckily, the aircraft landed safely without any casualties. However a week later, a training aircraft caught fire, and both the flight instructor and his student were killed.
Ilkhani indeed had a crisis on his hands: aircraft grounded, passengers left without flights and public trust in Iranian commercial aviation at an all-time low. His organization also was sharply criticized. By some accounts, he did his best. He used Iran Air, the official national flag carrier, to help Caspian Airlines and suspended Aria Airlines' permit. Training flights were regulated immediately. He also informed all the airlines that from now on they had better focus on acquiring western made aircraft. He even went as far as suggesting that airfares should be increased so airlines could afford western aircraft.
True, many might criticize his handling of this crisis and point out some double standards in his treatment of companies and his silent approval of his subordinates using private airlines as scapegoats in this crisis. However, it should be noted that he inherited a system already on the verge of collapse. Iranian civil aviation has been subjected to 30 years of sanctions, pricing restraints and widespread government interference on all levels of its operation. Its collapse was a matter of time. In his farewell interview with the semi-official Mehr News Agency, he pointed out 12 steps that he had taken to offer a road map to improve commercial aviation in Iran. For instance, he visited Moscow and Qatar to negotiate for better aircraft and pushed for opening Iranian aviation to foreign investment. He told reporters of his concerns as to how any foreign investor would trust this industry when any IR-CAO chief hardly remains in his post for more than nine months.
It seems in replacing him, the Iranian government is trying to offer yet another scapegoat to the Iranian public so it can deny its own responsibility and avoid admitting the grievous effects of U.S.-imposed sanctions on Iranian aviation. Haven't they noticed that time for half measures, rash decisions and political tactics has long passed in Iranian aviation?
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