On December 14, a technical error forced a Norwegian Air jet to make an emergency landing in Tehran, Iran, and over a month later it’s still sitting there. The flight had left Dubai en route to Oslo when it began experiencing a technical error in one of the engines, forcing it to land safely in Tehran’s Shiraz Airport, with 186 passengers and six crew members. Luckily, the passengers and crew were able to leave on a flight to Oslo the next day, but for the aircraft, however, it wasn’t so simple. Due to the US sanctions on Iran’s nuclear program, prohibiting sale of services for civilian aircrafts, getting parts for the plane is taking an awfully long time.
Norwegian Air has never dealt with Iran’s ground regulations, and the incident shows the severity of sanctions against Iran’s civilian aviation. Anahita Thoms, a lawyer specializing in trade issues, told The New York Times, “There is no getting around the US sanctions. Let’s assume they need a spare part and that spare part contains more 10 percent US-origin goods, or technology — that would require a US license.” And getting that license is no easy feat, especially under the Trump administration. The incident is a striking example of how US sanctions against Iran can actually make flying less safe.
The current sanctions prevent Iran from renewing or repairing properly its aging fleet of aircrafts. Andrew Charlton, managing director of the consulting firm Aviation Advocacy explained to The New York Times that airplanes in Iran are like cars in Cuba. “Their options are to repair every part they have, to come up with their own parts,” he said. “They’ve had to become self-reliant.”
Right now, Norwegian officials have no idea when the plane will finally be able to depart Iran.