A regional carrier flying from Tehran to Tabas in central Iran crashed shortly after takeoff today into a residential area outside Mehrabad airport, leaving dozens dead.
The morning crash of the Iran-140 turboprop killed 40 passengers and 8 crew, Reza Dehghanpour, head of Tehran Emergency Services, told Iranian state television. Three with severe burns were hospitalized, he said. State-run Mehr news agency reported 40 were dead and eight injured; the Iranian Students News Agency said the confirmed death toll was 38.
The Sepahan Air passenger plane slammed into a housing district near the airport at about 9:45 a.m., the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported, citing Red Crescent spokesman Hossein Derakhshan. Emergency crew at the site and investigators are trying to determine the cause of the crash, he said. The two black boxes have been recovered, Ahmad Majidi of the crisis management office at the Transport Ministry told ISNA.
The aircraft, which seats about 50 people, crashed into a wall surrounding an aviation base belonging to the Defense Ministry, said police at the scene.
Roads were blocked off and the area was surrounded by security personnel, airport police and military police. Two fire trucks and a dozen firefighters were at the site.
Iran has one of the worst aviation safety records in the world. At least 77 died after a 37-year-old Boeing 727 crashed in 2010 near the northern city of Orumiyeh.
From 2000 to 2006, 11 Iranian plane crashes claimed about 700 lives, according to Press TV.
Masood Soltani, an employee at the nearby Elmi Karbordi University who captured part of today’s accident on his phone, said he heard five explosions.
“I came outside, there were clumps of steel everywhere and there was lots of thick, black smoke,” Soltani said. “The first explosion was quite weak but when the third happened I was outside and it threw the tail of the plane to the other side of the street.”
The Iran-140 is a domestically assembled version of Ukraine’s Antonov An-140. Today’s accident in Iran follows three other fatal airline crashes the past month, putting 2014 on course to be the worst year in almost a decade for passenger fatalities.
The crash of a McDonnell Douglas MD-83 aircraft on the edge of the Sahara desert on July 24 followed the loss of an ATR-72 turboprop in storms in Taiwan on July 23 and the downing of Malaysian Air Flight MH17 over Ukraine last month.
Iran has been trying to modernize its foreign-built fleet of jetliners amid international sanctions that block purchases from suppliers such as Chicago-based Boeing Co. and Toulouse, France-based Airbus Group NV. Restrictions on purchases of aircraft and parts force have forced Iranian officials in past years to buy used planes and get spare parts on the secondary market, hampering safety and competitiveness.
Iran Air has already grounded 10 aircraft due to a lack of parts, with other Iranian airlines grounding about 90, Iran Air CEO Farhad Parvaresh said in June.
Iran needs about 400 passenger planes over the next decade once foreign sanctions are lifted, Ali Reza Jahangirian, head of the country’s Civil Aviation Organization, said in May.
Under a temporary accord over Iran’s nuclear program reached last year with six world powers including the U.S., the Persian Gulf country has been allowed to order safety-related spare parts for its aging air fleet. Boeing confirmed last month that it has an agreement with Iran covering spare parts. Iran and world powers are seeking to finalize the nuclear deal -- which would see a lifting of sanctions against Iran -- before it expires in November.
Mehrabad Airport is used mainly for domestic flights while Imam Khomeini Airport outside Tehran handles international flights.
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at firstname.lastname@example.org Randall Hackley, Kim McLaughlin