Iran’s aviation industry has received another severe blow. Following the footsteps of Boeing and Airbus, ATR also announced last week that it has decided to distance itself from Tehran.
The decision was announced at a time that ATR had prepared several planes for delivery to Tehran, and even painted them exclusively for the Islamic Republic’s national airline, Iran Air.
Under the shadow of the new US sanctions imposed on Tehran, all international plane manufacturers that use at least 10% US made parts in their products have decided to completely avoid the Iranian market.
According to the international aviation analysts, even if the US made parts could be replaced, the manufacturers still prefer to keep away from Tehran and avoid facing the risk of being punished by Washington.
Iran, described as a “goldmine for commercial aircraft manufacturers” immediately after inking Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) or Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers in 2015, has currently lost all its attraction for giant commercial aircraft companies across the world.
Iranian companies had earlier signed MoUs with European plane manufacturer Airbus, Franco-Italian ATR and US Boeing to buy aircraft worth more than $40 billion. Had President Donald Trump not decided to drop JCPOA and reimpose US sanctions on Tehran, the figure could have risen to $50 billion, analysts said.
Last week, ATR admitted that it must give up delivering the remaining aircraft ordered by Iran because of new US sanctions and that it will try to reclassify twelve aircraft if it does not obtain a waiver.
"In 2018, our delivery target could be impacted given the Iranian context," ATR CEO Christian Scherer said in an interview published on French website, LaTribune.fr.
Iran Air, the national flag carrier, signed a contract to buy twenty planes from Franco-Italian turboprop manufacturer ATR in April 2017. The deal came after Iran signed contracts with Europe’s Airbus and US rival Boeing to purchase about 180 jets.
"Of the 80 planes we expected to deliver in 2018, there were 12 for Iran, that's a lot," said Scherer whose company is jointly owned by France-based Airbus and Leonardo of Italy.
Iran took delivery of the first four ATR aircraft in May 2017; two more last September, beside another two in December, with the rest due to be handed over to the country by the end of 2018, the Islamic Republic’s Englis-speaking Press TV reported.
Scherer said the Iranians want to take delivery of the planes, “but ATR will not take any risk of falling out with US authorities and exposing its shareholders Leonardo and Airbus to US sanctions."
He said two aircraft have already been completed, six are being assembled and the last four have been launched and "customized" for Iran, particularly with pressurization devices, to fly over mountainous areas.
To still deliver to Iran, ATR is trying to get a waiver from the Americans, but Scherer said he was "not entirely confident" about it.
"The Americans have promised a three-month period (from May to August) to allow companies to deliver the materials that were in production” after US President Donald Trump’s announcement to reimpose sanctions on Tehran, LaTribune.Fr, reported.
“For the aviation industry, this three-month period is ridiculously short," Scherer regretfully admitted.
Meanwhile, Aviation Weekly reported that ATR has applied for a new export license from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to allow it to deliver the final 12 ATR 72s of an order for 20 of the 70-seat turboprops placed in 2016 by Iran Air, the Franco-Italian company confirmed Monday.
OFAC recently revoked ATR’s previous license following new sanctions imposed in May by the Trump administration that bar further delivery of commercial airplanes to Iran, Aviation Weekly said.
The new sanctions also prevent Airbus, ATR, and Boeing from selling parts and providing support for the airplanes already delivered.