AFP: An Iranian military jet on Monday crashed and burst into flames at Mehrabad airport in central Tehran, the city's main domestic air hub, but the crew ejected unscathed, emergency services said.
TEHRAN (AFP) — An Iranian military jet on Monday crashed and burst into flames at Mehrabad airport in central Tehran, the city's main domestic air hub, but the crew ejected unscathed, emergency services said.
The Russian-made Sukhoi jet crashed on landing at the airport in southwestern Tehran while on a training mission. The fire brigade rushed to the scene after being alerted by the public.
The accident was the latest crash to hit the Iranian air force, which has to operate an ageing fleet hit by the effects of the blanket US trade embargo imposed after the 1979 Islamic revolution.
"As soon as the plane hit the ground it went off the runway tarmac and caught fire," Behrouz Tashakor, the spokesman for the Tehran fire brigade, told the official IRNA news agency.
"The fire was completely put out within 10 minutes.
"The pilot and the co-pilot of the training fighter plane that caught fire are safe," he said. There were no reports of any casualties.
Fars news agency said the plane crashed at 7:00 pm (1430 GMT) because of a technical fault and that the pilot and co-pilot managed to eject safely.
Mehrabad airport was once the hub for Iran's international civilian flights to Tehran, but is now employed almost exclusively for domestic travel after international services moved to a new airport outside the capital in 2007.
The facility is also used by the Iranian military.
The Iranian air force has been hit hard by the US embargo — which means the country must work intensely to find spare parts to keep its fleet in the air — and has suffered several fatal crashes in recent years.
Many of Iran's planes are of American origin and were bought in a massive arms-buying spree by the pro-US shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who was ousted in the Islamic revolution.
Iran also has Russian jets like the Sukhoi, but it has in recent months announced the development of home-produced fighter jets such as the Saegheh and Arazakhsh.
One of Iran's worst air disasters of recent times was in December 2005 when a Lockheed C-130 transport plane crashed into a densely populated area of Tehran shortly after taking off from Mehrabad, killing 108 people.
The dead included all passengers and crew as well as civilians on the ground. The plane, bought before the Islamic revolution, had been starved of spare parts and its pilot was reported to be unwilling to take off.
Civil aviation in Iran is also badly affected by the US trade embargo which effectively means the country cannot buy new Boeing or Airbus planes. But it does sometimes acquire the planes second-hand from friendly countries.
The massive expansion of Tehran in recent decades because of immigration from the provinces means that Mehrabad is no longer on the outskirts and is within the city in a busy area.