A flight operated by Iran’s Aseman Airlines crashed on 18 February in the Zagros mountains.

Aseman Airlines (EP) flight 3704, departed at 08:00 local time on 18 February from Mehrabad International airport in Iran’s capital city of Tehran. The flight, which had 60 passengers, two security guards, two flight attendants, a pilot and co-pilot on board, was bound for the southwestern city of Yasuj.

According to international and local media reports, the aircraft – a French-made turboprop ATR 72-500 – came down in the Zagros Mountains, specifically in Mount Dena where the mountain’s highest peak is located, about 22 kilometres form Yasuj.

Aseman Airlines spokesman Mohammad Tabatabai initially said the airline did not expect any survivors from the crash.

This statement was later retracted by the airline, saying “given the special circumstances of the region, we still have no access to the spot of the crash and therefore we cannot accurately and definitely confirm the death of all passengers of this plane.”

Aseman Airlines, which is owned by the state’s civil service foundation but managed as a private entity, is Iran’s third largest airline in terms of fleet size. It trails privately-owned Mahan Air and state-owned Iran Air.

In June 2017, Aseman Airlines signed a contract to purchase 30 Boeing 737 planes. It is understood that Aseman Airlines has committed to acquire another 30 Boeing planes once the delivery of the first order is been completed. The deal for the 60 aircraft is estimated to be worth $3bn.

Decades of sanctions have left Iran’s aviation sector in a troubling state. The country’s airlines currently maintain 250 aircrafts, many of which are deemed not air-worthy by global standards. As a result, Iran has one of the world’s worst air travel safety records. Between 1979 and 2014, an estimated 1,672 people had lost their lives in aviation-related accidents, an average of 50 deaths a year.

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