Photographer: Balint Porneczi/Bloomberg

Iran Air Signs $536 Million Order for 20 ATR Turboprop Aircraft

  • Deliveries set to start in next few weeks, planemaker says
  • Deal will renew fleet used for flights to smaller airstrips

European turboprop manufacturer ATR sealed a long-awaited deal with Iran Air worth $536 million at list prices, making it the latest aerospace company to benefit after a nuclear accord eased international restrictions on trade with the Middle Eastern state.

Iran Air will take 20 ATR 72-600 aircraft and has options for 20 more, ATR spokesman David Vargas said by telephone Thursday. The first plane from the joint venture of Airbus SE and Leonardo SpA is due for delivery “within weeks,” with all scheduled to have been handed over by the end of 2018, he said.

Iran is splurging on new aircraft after economic sanctions stopped the nation of 80 million people from renewing its fleet for several years, making the average age of its planes one of the highest in the world and pushing up accident rates.

Turboprop models generally serve smaller airports often inaccessible to bigger jet aircraft -- a requirement that’s particularly acute in a country with such mountainous terrain. Beyond the current deal, Iran should also “provide a lot of opportunities for replacement and growth,” Vargas said.

The purchase from ATR, as Avions de Transport Regional is known, was held up as U.S. manufacturer Pratt & Whitney sought permission to export PW100 engines for the aircraft. Vargas said ATR had obtained a license from the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control allowing the deal to go ahead.

Iran Air has already taken delivery of Airbus A320 and A350 planes from a $19 billion accord and is awaiting its first Boeing Co. aircraft under a $16.6 billion deal. The U.S. company last week signed a further $3 billion accord to supply 30 737 Max planes to Iran Aseman Airlines, though it’s not clear if President Donald Trump’s administration will query the sales or wave them through.