Iran obtains 15 civilian aircraft in boost to ageing fleet

DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran has bought 15 second-hand civilian aircraft in the last three months, the transport minister said in published remarks, bolstering an ageing fleet hit by U.S. sanctions that restrict trade of aircraft and parts. ISNA news agency on Sunday quoted Abbas Akhoondi as saying nine of the planes had been obtained in the past week, without specifying who had sold them or how they had been bought. "With the arrival of these new aircraft, the average age of the active planes in Iran has fallen from 20 years to 19 years," Akhoondi was quoted as saying. The report did not identify the type of aircraft purchased. A long-standing ban on the sales of spare parts was eased under an interim nuclear deal between Iran and world powers in late 2013, but the U.S. sanctions regime still restricts sales of aircraft. Iranian airlines have suffered several fatal crashes in recent years due to mechanical failures. Thirty-nine people were killed in August last year when a locally-built plane of Ukrainian design crashed after taking off from Tehran. Akhoondi said the ongoing nuclear negotiations, and the potential lifting of sanctions if a deal is reached next month, might allow Iran to negotiate directly with manufacturers to purchase high-quality aircraft. In addition to the 15 aircraft, Iran bought two further planes to be stripped for parts, Akhoondi said. (Reporting by Sam Wilkin; Editing by Mark Potter)