Well this is without a doubt the most interesting airline story of 2021, even though we actually have no clue what happened.
737 diverts to Iran, hasn’t been seen since
Fly Armenia Airways is a fairly new airline based in Yerevan, Armenia. The airline was founded in 2019, and only got its air operator certificate in 2020. The airline has a small fleet consisting of just two 737s:
- There’s a 737-400 that’s 31 years old, with the registration code UR-CNP
- There’s a 737-300 that’s 23 years old, with the registration code EK-FAA
Well, at the moment the carrier’s fleet is back down to one plane, as the 737-300 has gone missing in Iran. How could that happen? Well, on February 19 the plane was supposed to fly to Ukraine to undergo maintenance, after having been in storage for a while:
- The plane took off from Tallinn, Estonia, where it had been stored; the destination was supposed to be Hostomel, Ukraine, where the plane was supposed to undergo maintenance
- For unknown reasons, the plane instead flew to Varna, Bulgaria; this is especially strange because airplanes registered in Armenia are blacklisted from the European Union, so the plane shouldn’t have been allowed to fly there
- The following day plans seemingly changed, and the decision was instead made to fly the plane to Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, for maintenance
- The plane then “disappeared” over Iranian airspace, and interestingly Tehran had been listed as a diversion point for the pilots
- Over Iranian airspace the crew declared an emergency — some sources suggest there was a technical issue, while other sources suggest there was a hijacking
It’s worth noting that flight tracking for this aircraft’s registration has intentionally been turned off, so it’s clear that something was being hidden here (and we’re not just talking about when the emergency was declared, but rather from the time the plane took off from Tallinn).
Today the airline posted the following message on Facebook, whatever the heck this means:
We inform you that today’s press conference will not be held. The reason for the delay of the press conference is not to arrive from the Islamic Republic of Iran. We apologize.
What actually happened here?
The leading theory as to what’s going on is that this was all an operation to try to sell a plane to an Iranian airline. Due to sanctions against Iran, Iranian airlines can’t purchase any planes with US-manufactured parts.
This is one of the reasons that Iranian airlines fly such ancient planes, which they largely purchase on the secondhand market through questionable means. That’s also why it seems likely that this is what’s going on here:
- There’s simply no good explanation for the plane making an unscheduled stop in Bulgaria, then changing its flight plan, and then disappearing in Iran while claiming to be hijacked
- One has to wonder to what extent Fly Armenia Airways is actually an airline, rather than a company with a different goal; the 737 that went “missing” has been in storage for a long time, while the other 737 has been operating flights on behalf of Yanair, a Ukrainian airline (though flight tracking shows the plane has largely been flying between Eritrea, Somalia, and Ethiopia)
- Fly Armenia Airways only recently took delivery of this plane from GetJet, a questionable Lithuanian aircraft leasing company; was Fly Armenia Airways simply acting as a middle-man for this transaction?
- There are reports that Iran’s Caspian Airlines plans to take delivery of a Boeing 737-300 soon, which might not be a coincidence
If this is in fact as it seems, was Fly Armenia Airways set up solely for this purpose, or what? Because realistically the airline is in a lot of trouble, having flown this plane into EU airspace, and then potentially supplying this plane to an Iranian airline, in violation of sanctions.
A Boeing 737-300 belonging to Fly Armenia Airways mysteriously went missing over Iran a bit over a week ago, and we haven’t heard anything about the plane since. While there’s a claim that there was an “emergency,” all signs point towards this being a creative way for an Iranian airline to buy a 737 and get around sanctions.
I guess we’ll see if a Caspian Airlines 737-300 magically enters service in the coming weeks…
Interesting stuff, or what?