EghtesadOnline: Tehran's Mehrabad Airport on Wednesday saw the touch-down of four brand new ATR 72-600 planes that joined the rejuvenating fleet of Iranian aircraft.
The new planes are the first batch of a big order national flag carrier Iran Air placed mid-April with the Franco-Italian planemaker to purchase 20 turboprop regional aircraft, with the option of adding 20 more in the future.
The delivery comes a few days before Iran's presidential vote on May 19, in which incumbent Hassan Rouhani is seeking a reelection, on the back of economic achievements following the signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (formal name for the nuclear deal Iran signed with world powers in 2015), and its implementation last year, which marked the removal of long-standing sanctions against Iran, including those on its aviation sector.
As highlighted by Iran Air Chief Executive Farhad Parvaresh, the arrival of the new turboprop aircraft is the direct result of JCPOA, according to Financial Tribune.
Iran has also recently been delivered three other brand new aircraft from Airbus as part of a contract with the European planemaker for a purchase of a total of 100 passenger jets. Another deal with American giant Boeing, also signed after the nuclear deal, will see the delivery of 80 planes in the future.
Iran's agreement with ATR came after lengthy negotiations, amid unsolved issues regarding after-sales services for the Canadian engines of the plane, Pratt & Whitney. It is America's top military engine-maker that supplies the F-35 fighter project.
Political risks of dealing with Iran forced the company to take a cautious stance at a time when US President Donald Trump was attacking aerospace firms for going over budget.
ATR finally agreed to provide the after-sales services on its own.
Financing has been another issue in all of Iran Air’s plane talks. Just like Airbus, ATR is financing the first few deliveries itself.
As for the remaining planes, Iran is putting out a tender within less than a month to finance the deals, worth dozens of billions of dollars.
Ten companies from Japan, Norway, Denmark, China, Ireland and Britain have already expressed readiness to participate in the tender, according to deputy minister of roads and urban development Asghar Fakhrieh-Kashan.
The financing of these deals hit a rough patch amid major international banks’ fears of being penalized by the United States.
Iran Air Champion of Regional Connectivity
According to Parvaresh, the purchase of the 70-seat ATR planes has been aimed at activating small airports in “underprivileged” areas across Iran.
Iran Air’s shopping list includes all sorts of planes, but regional planes are of special importance for the company to resolve the issue of uneconomical flights to small airports in regional destinations.
Iran has the capacity to add 50 regional planes to its fleet within the next 10 years, in addition to the 20 ATR aircraft it is buying, Iran Air chief said in August 2016.
“We are happy to support Iran Air with our eco-efficient aircraft for short-haul connectivity. I think Iran Air will become the champion of regional connectivity in Iran,” Giovanni Tramparulo, ATR’s Chief Financial Officer told a press conference after the landings.
Responding to a question by the Financial Tribune, Milco Rappuouli, ATR's sales director for Middle East said his company is holding talks with other Iranian airlines as well.
“We decided that Iran Air was our primary partner that we wanted to pursue. And once this would have been a reality, we would have been devoting ourselves to the others. And there many others,” he told us with a strong Italian accent.
“We estimate the need for 60-70 aircraft.”
ATR has also sold Iran Air some spare parts which the planemaker believes the airline will need in the near future. Parvaresh said the parts were shipped with the planes delivered on Wednesday.
“Iran Air is more than a customer, it is a partner. Because when we deliver aircraft it is the first day of thirty years, and even more, of cooperation,” Tramparulo said.
ATR is scheduled to deliver nine ATR 72-600s in 2017 and the rest in 2018.