World

Cargo plane crash in Iran leaves 15 dead

A decades-old Iranian Boeing 707 military cargo plane reportedly carrying meat from Kyrgyzstan crashed while trying to land west of Iran's capital, killing 15 people aboard and leaving one survivor, authorities say.

Plane was travelling from Kyrgyzstan's capital to Iran

A plane crashed Monday at Fath Airport, which belongs to Iran's powerful paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, when it was meant to land at the nearby Payam International Airport, about 40 kilometres west of the Iranian capital. (Hasan Shirvani/Mizan News Agency via Associated Press)

A decades-old Iranian Boeing 707 military cargo plane reportedly carrying meat from Kyrgyzstan crashed on Monday while trying to land west of Iran's capital, killing 15 people aboard and leaving one survivor, authorities said.

The crash marked just the latest aviation disaster for Iran, which had hoped to replace its aging fleet under terms of the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

But instead, U.S. 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.

The aircraft, which bore the paint scheme of the Iranian air force's Saha civilian airline, was making an emergency landing around 8:30 a.m. local time on Monday at Fath Airport, an airfield controlled by Iran's powerful paramilitary Revolutionary Guard. The plane skidded off the runway, crashed through a perimeter fence and into a residential neighbourhood.

Emergency crews work at the site of the plane crash on Monday. (Hasan Shirvani/Mizan News Agency via Associated Press)

Iranian state television aired images of smoke-charred homes and the fuselage of the aircraft lying on the ground in the neighbourhood. Nearby was part of its landing gear, torn away. Small fires burned around it.

The plane was meant to land at the nearby Payam International Airport, about 40 kilometres west of Tehran, the Iranian capital.

Authorities did not immediately offer a reason for the crew's decision to land instead at Fath Airport. That airport is some 10 kilometres southwest of Payam. Its runway is around 1,100 metres long, compared to Payam's 3,600 metres. In November, a commercial airline reportedly mistook Fath for Payam, but was able to abort its landing.

Iran's state-run IRNA news agency later quoted an anonymous aviation official saying Monday's doomed flight likewise mistook Fath for Payam.

Emergency workers survey wreckage from the Boeing 707 cargo plane, a model of aircraft that was last manufactured 40 years ago. (Hasan Shirvani/Mizan News Agency via Associated Press)

Pirhossein Koulivand, head of the country's emergency medical services, said only the flight engineer was known to have survived. Iranian media reported seven bodies from the crash had already been recovered.

Iran's air force said in a statement that the fate of the crew, including their possible "martyrdom," is under investigation. It wasn't immediately clear who owns the plane, though Gen. Shahin Taghikhani, an army spokesperson, told state TV that the plane and its crew were Iranian.

Iranians often use the word "martyrdom" for those who die in war or national service.

Saha Airlines operated one of the world's last commercial flights of the Boeing 707, which was first manufactured in 1958 and helped usher in the jet age. The four-engine, narrow-body aircraft were built until 1979.

Maintenance information regarding the Boeing 707 that crashed Monday was not immediately available. However, Iran has struggled to obtain parts for its aging fleet of airlines, nearly all purchased during the time of the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and before the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

There was also a fatal crash of a Saha Airlines Boeing 707 in April 2005, when a flight coming from the Kish island crash-landed at Mehrabad Airport in Tehran, killing three passengers.