Iran Air's First New Airbus Plane Has Been Spotted in Germany
A plane spotter in Germany named Tobias Gudat has taken the first photo showing what is likely to be the first Airbus aircraft delivered to Iran Air. The grainy photograph captures an Airbus A321 with the registration number EP-IFA sporting Iran Air's updated livery. The plane is currently located at Hamburg's Finkenwerder Airport, which is a private airport used by Airbus for test and delivery flights.
Gudat posted his image to Flickr on December 15th, the same day that Reuters reported that Airbus had made further progress in its negotiations in Iran. Not only is Airbus expected to finalize its deal with Iran Air "within two weeks." But Iran's Aseman Airlines has separately reached an agreement to lease seven Airbus aircraft from a third party.
The existence of the plane was first reported by German specialist publication Aero Telegraph on November 18. The plane took its maiden shakedown flight two days earlier, at which point it was unmarked. By December 14, the Iran Air livery was added.
The photographed A321 is currently the only new Airbus plane assigned to Iran Air. The plane was however originally registered to Colombian airline Avianca and was reassigned to Iran Air prior to its maiden flight. The Aero Telegraph report mentions the possibility that further aircraft currently registered with Avianca and located at Airbus' facility in Spain, could also be assigned to Iran Air. But at the moment no further A321 aircraft, or A330, A350, or A380 aircraft (models originally announced as part of Iran Air's acquisition plan) have been assigned to Iran Air.
There is significant pressure for Airbus and Iran Air to make the first deliveries as soon as possible. The Airbus deal is seen as a potential watershed for trade and investment in Iran, and will offer the Rouhani administration a powerful symbol that sanctions relief is working. For multinationals and investors the hope is that the successful conclusion of the Airbus deal will raise the comfort level of international banks to transact with Iran. Airbus may also be seeking to ensure the initial delivery is made prior to Donald Trump taking office in the United States.
Airbus and Iran Air have targeted deliveries in the first quarter of 2017, notably in time for the Iranian presidential election. However, the preparedness of the A321 aircraft currently in Germany raises the prospect that Airbus will make a single early delivery to mark its commitment to its Iranian counterparts. The company will also want to be the first to make a delivery given the simultaneous negotiations between Iran Air and industry rival Boeing.
The initial contract with Iran Air is likely to cover between 50-60 aircraft out of a total of 118 provisionally stipulated in the agreement signed during President Rouhani's trip to France in January. A successful delivery will make this contract more tangible for all parties, and in particular the Iranian public, who have long demanded newer, safer aircraft.
Photo Credit: Tobias Gudat