Both under U.S. and EU economic sanctions, Russia and Iran have reached agreements that call for the export of Iranian-made parts and equipment to the Russian Federation for Airbus and Boeing commercial jets as part of a wider pact that will see an increase in passenger flight frequencies of up to 35 per week between the two countries. Talks between senior officials of the countries’ civil aviation authorities on Tuesday solidified the terms of the deals, one of which also calls for Iranian MRO specialists to carry out repair and maintenance on Russian-operated jets.
The respective deals came in the aftermath of July 19 meetings in Tehran involving Russian president Vladimir Putin, Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi, and supreme leader Ali Khamenei. The trio has pledged to make every step possible to expand cooperation between the two nations so as to better withstand the economic pressure from the West.
Mir Akbar Razavi, an official representative of the Civil Aviation Organization of the Islamic Republic of Iran (CAO.IRI), confirmed the deals on flight frequencies, maintenance, and repair to Iran’s MEHR news outlet soon after the completion of negotiations between CAO.IRI chief Mohammad Mohammadi-Bakhsh and his Russian counterpart.
According to Razavi, the civil aviation authorities of the two countries have jointly stated the acute need to expand and expedite bilateral cooperation in the field of air transportation.
Russia’s need for Iranian expertise in maintenance and repair arises from the fact that its own MROs lack the industrial capacity to do all the needed work on U.S. and EU–made aircraft. As a result, local carriers had ordered a large amount of work from European maintenance and repair centers, but their services became unavailable following the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
Soon thereafter, Moscow applied to Beijing for help with keeping Russian Airbus and Boeings intact, but the Chinese MROs have hesitated for fear of losing licenses for such work from the original equipment manufacturers. Meanwhile, the Chinese civil aviation authorities hesitate to sanction the Kremlin’s decision to place all Airbus and Boeing jets operated by local airlines on the national air register without respective agreements with the Western leasing companies that own the aircraft. On a number of occasions, Chinese authorities refused to issue permission for Russian airlines to fly into Chinese airports on aircraft they recently transferred from Bermuda and Isle of Man registers onto the Russian registry.
Even though Iran does not enjoy OEM permissions to carry out maintenance and repair on U.S. and EU-made aircraft, the country has mastered the respective procedures using documentation obtained from third parties and through reverse engineering.
In a sense, the Iranian MROs have succeeded in keeping intact a number of Airbus and Boeing airplanes that Iran acquired from OEMs even before the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Since then, Iran’s relations with the West have gone through ups and downs, including short periods during which the West permitted the export of newly made jets, turboprops, and helicopters, as well as spare parts into the Islamic Republic. Iran last imported freshly made Western aircraft in 2016, when Iran Air took delivery of an A321, two A330s, and eight ATR 72-600s. Those deliveries boosted the size of the national airliner fleet to about 400.