Search for missing Iranian plane hit by bad weather

Hundreds of mountaineers are operating near the crash area, say officials

Updated - November 28, 2021 07:57 am IST

Published - February 19, 2018 10:13 pm IST - Tehran

 Members of a search team look for the remains of a plane that crashed on Sunday in the Dena mountains.

Members of a search team look for the remains of a plane that crashed on Sunday in the Dena mountains.

Iranian rescue teams battled severe weather on Monday as they searched for the wreckage of a passenger plane that disappeared high in the Zagros mountains the previous day with 66 people on board.

Several helicopters that had deployed at dawn to hunt for Aseman Airlines flight EP3704 were forced to return to base, officials said.

“Unfortunately due to strong winds and fog reducing visibility, it was not possible for helicopters to continue their search,” a Red Crescent official told the ISNA news agency.

4,409-m mountain

Officials said hundreds of mountaineers, supported by dogs and drones, were operating around the 14,465-foot (4,409-m) Dena mountain, which is popular with Iranians seeking to prepare for climbing in the Himalayas.

The ATR-72 twin-engine plane, in service since 1993, flew early Sunday from Mehrabad airport towards the city of Yasuj, some 500 km to the south. The plane’s emergency locator transmitter was reportedly not functioning, helping to explain the difficulty in finding the wreckage. Families of the passengers had travelled to the area and were giving DNA samples for later identification of victims, the IRNA news agency reported.

An ATR-72 crashed in similar icy conditions in Indiana in the United States in 1994, leading some operators to avoid cold weather conditions.

‘Not good for cold areas’

“Even newer versions of this aircraft are not good for such cold places and it would be better not to use it for this route and especially with such bad weather and visibility,” said Iranian aviation expert Babak Taghvaee.

Aseman Airlines was blacklisted by the European Commission in December 2016. It was one of only three airlines barred over safety concerns.

In a working paper presented to the United Nations' International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in 2013, Iran said U.S. sanctions were barring “the acquisition of parts, services and support essential to aviation safety”.

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