Iran test flies first domestically built airliner
Iran's first domestically produced passenger plane, built with technical assistance from Ukraine, the medium-haul Iran-140, successfully completed its first test flight Wednesday.
Visiting Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yushenko and Iran's First Vice President Hassan Habibi were among the guests to witness the test flight of the plane in Shahin-Shahr near the central city of Isfahan.
The test flight and landing of the twin-turboprop Iran-140—a license-built version of the Antonov An-140—was carried out by an Iranian pilot to mark the anniversary of Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution.
Habibi examined the 52-passenger aircraft, which was built by a branch of the Iranian defense ministry in Shahin-Shahr and has a range of 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles).
Iran and Ukraine signed a contract in 1993 for the construction of 43 planes, each of which costs some nine million dollars. The aircraft first flew in Ukraine in 1997 and the first two Iranian models are to be built this year and a further 12 by 2004.
Seventy percent of the components were made in Iran and the remainder in Ukraine.
The first Iran-140 is set to join Iran's national fleet by the beginning of the new Iranian year in March and the defense ministry has ordered a further 127 planes.
Yushenko arrived in Iran Tuesday for a two-day visit for talks on a pipeline project and plans to purchase Iranian oil, as well as witness the test flight.
His visit follows one last week by Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi to Kiev, during which the two governments announced they were looking at ways of transporting natural gas to central and Western Europe through Ukraine.
Ukraine, heavily dependent on Russia for its energy needs, is actively seeking new suppliers of oil and gas.
During his visit to Kiev, Kharazi said Iran was ready to help Ukraine meet its energy demands. But Yushenko was quoted by Interfax as saying he will stick to his previous commitments not to provide Iran with technology that could be used to build its nuclear capabilities.
During Yushenko's visit, Ukraine and Iran will sign agreements on trade cooperation and on setting up a joint bank. Trade between the two countries totaled $115.2 million in 2000, according to Ukrainian government figures. — (AFP, Shahin-Shahr)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)