A Caspian Airways jet headed from Iran to Armenia crashed this morning in northern Iran shortly after takeoff, and all on board are believed to have died.
Flight 7908, which was carrying 153 passengers and 15 crew members, crashed in Iran’s Qazvin province near the village of Jannat Abad.
The plane was en route from Tehran to the Armenian capital of Yerevan when it went down at 11:30 a.m., only 16 minutes after takeoff.
Witnesses said that the plane appeared to be on fire before it crashed, and the landing gear was down. This corresponds with a statement made by the Armenian civil aviation organization, which said that the pilot was attempting to make an emergency landing after discovering that an engine had caught fire.
Unfortunately it seems that the crew was not able to control the plane sufficiently to make a safe landing, and it ended up smashing at high speed into an empty field. The impact created a huge crater in the earth and caused the plane to break into hundreds of small pieces.
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The violence of the crash made it highly unlikely that anyone would have survived, and both Armenian and Iranian official are saying that at this point it appears that everyone onboard died. Among the passengers were eight members of Iran’s national youth judo team and the wife of the head of Georgia’s diplomatic mission in Iran.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has ordered a transport ministry probe into the disaster, which is the third in the country in recent years. One of the worst incidents occurred in 2003 when a Russian-made Ilyushin military plane crashed in the mountains of southeastern Iran, killing 302 people, including 30 members of the Revolutionary Guards.
The jet that went down today was a Russian-made Tupolev 154M that was built in 1987.
Though the cause of the crash is still unknown, aviation experts say Iranian aircraft tend to be old and in very poor condition due to lack of maintenance. Many ordinary Iranians are distrustful of Caspian Airlines and refuse to fly on it because they feel that the planes are unsafe and uncomfortable.
Caspian Airways and other Iranian airlines reportedly use Tupolevs and other Russian-made planes because the American trade embargo makes it difficult for them to get parts for Boeing and other American and European aircraft.
By Karen Elowitt for PeterGreenberg.com.