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Flying Safely Is a Human Right


13 Jan 2011 18:58Comments

International civil aviation board condemns U.S. sanctions for denial of essential parts and services.

1908500891_40a4ae69b0.jpg[ comment ] The crash of IranAir Flight 277 is the latest in a series of air disasters in the Islamic Republic over the past few years. There have been 15 incidents involving Iranian aircraft in the last nine years alone. Much of Iran's air fleet was delivered before the Islamic Revolution of 1979. It has been plagued by poor maintenance and a shortage of U.S.-made spare parts due to two decades of Western sanctions, with the result that many aircraft are fitted with unofficial reproduction parts, often obtained through the black market. Military engineers have also been known to cannibalize parts from older aircraft to keep newer ones flying. Iran's vintage civilian fleet includes classic Boeing 707s (it is the only country in the world where the 707 is still permitted to operate in a commercial capacity), Boeing 727s, Boeing 747-100s, and Soviet Ilyushins and Tupolevs. The more recent additions to the fleet consist mostly of second-hand Fokker 100s, Airbus A300s, and Airbus A310s.

We've heard numerous times that the unilateral and multilateral sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic are aimed at the government and not the people. The United States regularly voices its concerns over the Islamic Republic's human rights violations, and justifiably so. However, the United States fails to realize that by continuing the embargo on the sale of aircraft and spare parts, it is denying the Iranian people safe and secure travel, leading to numerous tragic incidents and the deaths of many innocent civilians. Is this not a human rights violation? How many crashes are needed before the United States finally realizes that the sanctions on Iran's civilian air industry need to be rescinded?

According to a International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) 2005 report, "U.S. sanctions...endangered the safety of civil aviation in Iran...contrary to the provisions, aims, and objectives of the Chicago Convention," the international compact governing civil aviation -- a compact of which the United States is both a founder and signatory. The report, which "concludes that the spare parts and services essential to civil aviation safety were denied," emphasizes that civil aviation should not "be used by member States as an instrument for foreign policy." In sum, "Aviation safety, as it affects human life and human rights, stands above political differences, which is as it should be, and is the bedrock principle of the Chicago Convention."

A list of Iranian air incidents involving commercial flights since the Revolution, and of military aircraft since the turn of the millennium, follows. There have been ten incidents involving commercial aircraft since 1979 (one of which also involved a military plane), and eight incidents involving military aircraft since 2000. At least 1,258 lives have been lost as a result. (In addition to the incidents listed below, 290 people were killed on July 3, 1988, when IranAir Flight 655 was shot down by the U.S. missile cruiser Vincennes.) Note that the aircraft below are either antiquated American planes or second-hand craft of various origin. Several of the incidents involved pilot error -- one can only imagine the proper training and support that would have been in place had there been no sanctions, which would undoubtedly have affected the number of fatalities.


January 21, 1980: An IranAir Boeing 727 crashes near Tehran, hitting high ground in a snowstorm during its landing approach. All 128 aboard are killed.

February 8, 1993: An Iran Airtour Tupolev 154M, departing on a nonscheduled flight from Tehran-Mehrabad Airport to Khoram Dareh, collides in midair with an Iranian Air Force Su-22 approaching the airport. All 12 crew members and 119 passengers are killed.

February 2, 2000: An Iranian Air Force C-130 veers out of control while taking off from Tehran Airport and crashes into an empty IranAir A300. Both aircraft are destroyed. All six aboard the C-130 are killed.

February 12, 2002: An Iran Airtour Tupolev 154M, descending toward Khorramabad, hits Sefid Kouh mountain at around 9,100 feet (2,773 meters). All 15 crew members and 105 passengers are killed.

February 19, 2003: An Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Ilyushin Il-76MD crashes into a mountain in poor weather near Shahdad. All 18 crew and 284 passengers on board are killed.

February 10, 2004: A Kish Air Fokker 50 crashes while landing at Sharjah Airport in the United Arab Emirates, killing 43 of the 45 passengers and crew aboard.

June 21, 2004: An F-14A Tomcat of the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force crashes on approach to Shahid Baba'ie Air Base. Blame is placed on the rush to put the pilot into service before he had completed his simulator course.

December 6, 2005: An Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force C-130E Hercules crashes into an apartment building in Tehran. Ninety-four people on board are killed as well as 14 in the building.

January 9, 2006: An Iranian military plane crashes in northwest Iran, killing at least 11 people on board, including several Revolutionary Guard commanders.

September 1, 2006: Iran Airtour Flight 945, a Tupolev Tu-154, crashes while attempting to land in Mashad, killing 28 of the 154 on board.

November 27, 2006: An Antonov-74 military aircraft crashes shortly after takeoff from a Tehran airport, killing 36 people on board.

August 24, 2008: A Boeing 737-200 owned by Itek Air of Kyrgyz, chartered by an Iranian company and bound for Iran, crashes at Bishkek Airport. Around 70 people, including members of a local teenage basketball team, die.

July 15, 2009: Caspian Airlines Flight 7908, a Tupolev Tu-154, crashes 16 minutes after takeoff near Qazvin, killing all 153 passengers and 15 crew.

July 24, 2009: Aria Air Flight 1525, an Ilyushin Il-62, skids off a runway at Hasheminejad Airport in Mashhad, killing at least 17. There are 136 survivors.

August 16, 2009: An Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force Bell 214 crashes on a training flight near Karaj. Four people are killed.

September 2, 2009: An Iranian Air Force AWACS-equipped Ilyushin Il-76MD collides with an Air Force Northrop F-5E Tiger II during a military parade near Varamin, resulting in seven fatalities.

January 24, 2010: Taban Air Flight 6437, a Tupolev Tu-154M, making an emergency landing at Mashhad International Airport due to an onboard medical problem, crashes. All 157 passengers and 13 crew members survive the accident, 47 with minor injuries.

January 9, 2011: IranAir Flight 277, a Boeing 727, crashes near Orumieh Airport, killing 78.

Navid Hassibi is starting his doctoral studies in political science with a focus on U.S. nuclear weapons policy under the Obama Administration.

Copyright © 2011 Tehran Bureau

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