The first of 100 planes that Iran is expected to receive through a landmark deal with the European aviation giant Airbus has landed in the country’s capital Tehran.
The arrival of the plane – Iran’s first new aircraft in about four decades – was marked by a special ceremony to celebrate what is seen as a historic day in the country’s aviation industry.
It could also specifically be a memorable day for many Iranians given that it manifested one of the most tangible signs that the sanctions against the country had been lifted.
The plane – an A321 which belongs to Iran Air - touched down at Tehran's Mehrabad International Airport on a flight from Airbus headquarters in the French city of Toulouse, the media reported.
The 189-seat plane, decked out in Iran Air's blue-and-white livery, was the first of 100 planes purchased under a deal finalized in December worth $18 billion, AP reported.
The deal includes 46 A320 family, 38 A330 family, and 16 A350 XWB aircraft.
“We struggled for two years to purchase planes from Airbus,” Iran Air head Farhad Parvaresh told reporters at the ceremony to mark the arrival of the first A321 in Iran. “There were many problems that still remained from the past and we had to go through a very difficult path to finalize the deal with Airbus,” he added.
The official emphasized that providing funds to support purchases of planes from Airbus contained various complexities.
“This was because Iran had not used the mechanisms to provide foreign funds [for its purchases from overseas supplies] over the past two decades.”
Iran’s Minister of Roads and Urban Development Abbas Akhoundi also told reporters that the A321 plane will be used in domestic flights.
Akhoundi added that Airbus will deliver two more planes – A330s – to Iran by late March.
The US-led sanctions against Iran prevented global plane providers from selling aircraft to Iran. However, this restriction was lifted after a nuclear deal between Iran and the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany – the so-called P5+1 – came into effect last January.
The deal – that had been sealed last summer – envisaged the removal of certain economic sanctions against Iran – including sales of planes and aviation spare parts – in return by steps by the country to restrict some aspects of its nuclear energy activities.
Most of Iran's aging fleet of 250 commercial planes was purchased before 1979, and as of June, only 162 were operational, with the rest grounded because of a lack of spare parts.
Airlines in Iran have been operating for decades on ageing fleet of Boeing and Airbus airliners, plus some Russian planes bought or leased since the revolution, according to rudaw.net.
Iran Air, whose website lists a fleet of 43 planes, offers direct flights to over 30 international destinations.
Iran Air recently sealed separate agreement to buy 80 planes from US manufacturer Boeing, beginning next year.
The deal – which involves 50 Boeing 737s and 30 777 airliners worth $16.6 billion - was Iran's biggest yet with an American company since the 1979.
Iran Air is also expected to seal an order for 20 turboprops from European manufacturer ATR.