Wreckage of an Iranian plane said found in central Iran

Alfred Osborne
March 21, 2018

The Aseman Airlines passenger plane came down in the Zagros mountains on Sunday, and all 66 people on board are feared to have been killed.

The Aseman Airlines ATR-72, a twin-engine turboprop used for short-distance regional flying, went down on Sunday in foggy weather, crashing into Mount Dena in southern Iran. "Thick fog and snow and rain have made it impossible to use helicopters", said Morteza Salimi, head of its rescue and relief section.

Press TV meanwhile reported that search teams reached the crash site before dawn on Monday.

The TV broadcast footage of a helicopter joining the search and showed ambulances and rescue vehicles preparing to reach the site on Mount Dena, which is about 4,400m.

The Aseman Airlines flight from Tehran disappeared from radar screens on Sunday 50 minutes into its journey to the southwestern city of Yasuj.

There were 60 passengers on board, including a child, and six crew members.

The Iranian Red Crescent said it has deployed to the area.

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Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has also expressed "deep sympathy" for relatives of those on board, saying the accident "saddened the hearts".

Aseman now has a fleet of 36 planes, including at least three ATR-72s that date back to the early 1990s, according to the IRNA news agency.

Todd Curtis, founder of the website AirSafe.com said Iran was able to keep its planes flying despite sanctions that made it more hard to buy parts or new aircraft, but that the aviation sector was not able to benefit from working with others in the industry from around the world. "Unfortunately, our dear ones lost their lives in this incident", he said.

However, the sale could be scuppered if US President Donald Trump chooses to reimpose sanctions in the coming months, as he has threatened to do.

Iran has suffered several aviation accidents in recent years and has an ageing aircraft fleet.

Following the landmark 2015 nuclear accord with world powers that lifted global sanctions on Tehran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear enrichment programme, Iran is allowed to purchase airplanes and airplane parts and has made deals worth tens of billions of dollars for new aircraft.

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