LONDON – Some airlines today are desperate because they do not know how to dispose of older planes, and Iran Air (IR) is one of them. The major Iranian airline still has aircraft such as Airbus A300 and A310, in addition to Boeing 727-200, 747-100/200, and 747SP.

Thus, the carrier has put them up for auction. The full list of aircraft is as follows:

  • Airbus A300B2-200  EP-IBT  c/n 185
  • Airbus A300B2-200  EP-IBV  c/n 187
  • Airbus A300B2-200  EP-IBZ  c/n 226 
  • Airbus A310-200  EP-IBN  c/n 375
  • Airbus A310-200  EP-IBQ  c/n 389
  • Boeing 727-200  EP-IRR  c/n 20946
  • Boeing 727-200  EP-IRS  c/n 20947
  • Boeing 747-100  EP-IAM  c/n 21759
  • Boeing 747-200  EP-IAG  c/n 21217
  • Boeing 747SP  EP-IAA  c/n 20998
  • Boeing 747SP  EP-IAB  c/n 20999
  • Boeing 747SP  EP-IAD  c/n 21758
Iran Air Boeing 747 Photo: Iran Air

Boeing 747 Are Too Old

Admittedly, these aircraft are all now very old — the trio of 747SP being the most antiquated, the earliest having been first flown in 1976. It is hard to see IR could have much use for the types as part of a viable commercial venture. 

Most of these aircraft were grounded some years ago and IR is now giving them up entirely, on account of their age, reduced overall passenger numbers, as well as the significant difficulties the carrier faces in getting the spares required to fly them. 

In all likelihood, the dozen or so airliners are too old to be restored and economically not worth it. Eliminating them as a source for spare parts is a more viable option, or simply breaking them down for their scrap value. Another real problem is that American carriers cannot deal with Iran as there are sanctions in place.

Iran Air Airbus A300 Photo: Iran Air

Who Is the Next Customer?

Bearing in mind these potential hurdles, it might be that another Iranian-based airline emerges as the most probable recipient of the aircraft, in which case they are most likely to serve as a source for spare parts.

Candidates could include Caspian Airlines (IV) for the Boeing 747-100/200, Iran Airtour (B9) for the A300 and A310, Mahan Air (W5) for the A300 and A310, Meraj Airlines (JI) for the A300, Qeshm Air (QB) also for the A300, and Taban Air (HH) for the A310. As for the Boeing 727 and 747SP, these have otherwise disappeared from Iranian service.

If there is no domestic airline interest, another potential taker for the Boeing 747 could be the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force (IRIAF). In August, reports emerged of damage sustained to an IRIAF 747-200 during an engine test and it was suggested that an ex-Iran Air 747SP could serve as a Donor providing replacement engines.

The Boeing 747 provides the IRIAF with an important aerial refueling and long-range transport capability, including support of the Iranian contingent in Syria, and additional spares could be highly prized. According to figures provided by Flight International’s World Air Forces 2020, the IRIAF operates seven transport-configured Boeing 747 and another three outfitted as air-to-air refueling tankers. 

Iran Air Boeing 747 Photo: Iran Air

Suspended Deliveries

In recent years the airline has faced many hurdles, with sanctions preventing an overhaul of its aging fleet and reducing the availability of spares. At the same time, operations have been severely limited by a ban on its A320, Boeing 727, and 747 fleets from the European Union over safety concerns.

The 2015 nuclear deal saw sanctions relaxed and provided the impetus for Iran Air to place orders with the ‘big two’ commercial manufacturers. Tehran had ordered for 80 Boeing jetliners valued at around US$16.6bn, plus 118 Airbus aircraft worth around US$25bn. Additional regional aircraft orders were placed with ATR and Bombardier. 

Featured image: Iran Air Boeing 747SP. Photo: Iran Air