A major military aviation disaster has unfolded in Iran on Monday at an airport belonging to Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). The Iranian army confirms 15 dead after a Boeing 707 military cargo plane crashed reportedly due to bad weather about 25 miles west of the Iranian capital.
Of the sixteen people on board, one survived — a flight engineer who was taken to the hospital — in the crash near Fath airport, located near Karaj in the central Iranian province of Alborz.
Reports say that the plane attempted an emergency landing after which it skidded off the runway and into a residential neighborhood where it slammed into a wall and engulfed in flames. State media footage showed residential homes and complexes burning amidst the wreckage.
The army said in a statement the aircraft had been carrying supplies: “A Boeing cargo 707 plane carrying meat from Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan had an emergency landing at Fath airport today ... the flight engineer has been dispatched to the hospital.”
“It exited the runway during the landing and caught fire after hitting the wall at the end of the runway,” it said. Though according to Reuters there were initially conflicting reports over who owned the plane, an army spokesman later confirmed the aircraft was owned by the government of Iran and that all aboard were Iranian citizens.
Video footage of the Kyrgyz Boeing 707 cargo plane crashing near the city of Shahriar, west of Tehran, #Iran.— ALI (@AliSalari1965) January 14, 2019
10 on board reportedly killed. Reports indicate seven bodies have been recovered.
Voice heard saying: "Don't take any footage!" pic.twitter.com/bxlSnTr0IU
Regional reports called the aircraft "decades old" — which suggests Washington's latest rounds of sanctions on Iran, targeting in part the aviation industry including civilian airplane parts, could have played a role. A number of international reports are already suggesting precisely this scenario:
The crash of the jetliner marked just the latest aviation disaster for Iran, which hoped to replace its aging fleet under terms of the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
But instead, President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the accord in May scuttled billions of dollars in planned sales by Airbus and Boeing Co. to the Islamic Republic, only increasing the danger for passengers in Iran planes.
Given that the Iranian air force does operate Boeing 707s and that state media and officials have used the word "martyrdom" to describe the fate of the crash victims — a word commonly used for casualties during military service — it was likely an air force owned and operated aircraft.
But it is perhaps only a matter of time before other tragic aviation disasters hit Iran's civilian passenger side given the impact of sanctions, which Tehran has sought relief from through Europe.