Bizarre: Fly Armenia 737 Diverts To Iran, Goes “Missing”

Filed Under: Other Airlines

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:

Dear colleagues,

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.

Bottom line

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?

Comments
  1. Such a far leap from the 707s and 747-SPs. Imagine. Enthusiasts will be going to Iran to fly on 737-300s someday :*(

  2. Good for them. Need to find creative ways to get around the US’s efforts to control the world.

  3. I remember reading a similar incident that happened in 2015, when AlNaser Airlines, an Iraqi carrier had acquired A340s. They were on their to Kazakhstan for scheduled maintenance but weirdly, declared an emergency over the Iranian Airspace and diverted to Tehran. Aaaaand, Mahan Air, an Iranian carrier under the sanctions of the US Government for transporting weapons between Iran and Syria, acquired the four A340s.

  4. Maybe you don’t know this, but Estonia is a part of the EU. So it didn’t enter the EU on this flight. It originated and landed in the EU. So clearly they had previously received permission to have the plane in Tallinn.

  5. Just out of curiosity, what makes GetJet questionable? Finnair used to lease an A320 from them for quite some time few years ago.

  6. “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”

    If that’s the case, how did the plane got into TLL in the first place?

  7. Flown internally many times in Iran. Boy do they need some new planes. Pretty sad that sanctions means spare parts are hard to come by and have to be manufactured within country and regular people are affected by poor flight safety records 🙁

  8. Took me a while to find but I managed to playback the flight on flightradar24. Seems to have been following the typical Europe-Middle East track but then deviated over southern Turkey and then entered Iranian airspace from the north. The aircraft carried on at 32,000 where it was subsequently lost coverage over Iran. Ironically, it seems to have declared an ’emergency’ not too far from Yerevan. Most likely going to an Iranian Airline but would have thought they’d have purchased a more modern plane through these means.

  9. I investigated quite a bit into this. Looking at their website, it’s just like a Wix template with a text written by a 10-year-old. They also have a “call-center”, however that phone number doesn’t exist, it’s a fake one. Also their “office” address is actually OSCE office in Armenia, as well as Military Prosecutors Office. Their logo is Air Italy logo with colors of Armenian flag. They have a “booking system”, which is actually not real, just a template, with “book” button redirecting to a some kind of city guide. Also, they stated that they’re soon going to fly to Beijing and Prague, with the first one being unreachable by the range of 737-300/-400 and second one is banned by the EU.

  10. Yep, definitely sanction busting. Someone probably made a ton of money for setting up a fake company and getting the plane to Iran. Lets see if the US will try to (and succeed) in catching the perps (I think very unlikely).

  11. Don’t worry – Joe’s already working on removing sanctions, so Iran will get new planes soon enough. Oh, and also Nukes.

    We never learn…

  12. I am pleasantly surprised at the number of comments supporting Iran breaking the sanctions. Must be hardly a Biden/Trump voter in the group and/or non Americans!

  13. @Alan – good for them breaking sanctions. Iran hasn’t really ever done anything besides be opposed to the Saudis. If the oil were swapped, we’d support the Iranians and have sanctioned the Saudis. It’s asinine.

    Either way, I’m surprised the Russians don’t just sell Iran a bunch of SSJ-100s. I reckon the Chinese will sell Comacs to Iran without calling much about sanctions.

  14. To all those supporting Iran skirting here sanctions: Really?!!!! Are you all unaware of all the terror financing and peddling that Iran does all over the world? It is not a secret and their Revolutionary Guard travels the world to train and supply terrorists and plan and order terror attacks.

  15. Considering the registration UR-CNP it is actually registered in Ukraine so enterig EU is not an issue.

  16. LOL at them nicking Air Italy’s logo… @Mike you’re right indeed it is, recoloured in the Armenian flag colours.

  17. @Andrew

    I went to the website too, but some things seem to have changed:

    -The destinations page only lists Russian destinations now; can’t find Beijing or Prague.
    -The ‘owner’ actually seems to have a ‘real’ office now, according to Google Maps. However, going into a nearby photosphere revealed only some residential buildings, with the ‘office’ hidden behind a tree.
    -The text, though… 3rd-grade me would have done a better job, if I may say so myself.

    Looks like someone actually tried to make the operation look legit, but failed.

  18. Dear Ben,
    I would like to inform you that B737-300 MSN28873, previous registration LY-ELF, was leased from Ireland registered lessor under operating lease (dry lease agreement only) and aircraft was redelivered back to lessor more than a year ago. Dry lease agreement was terminated on 3rd of February 2020 and removed from GetJet Airlines AOC. Lease termination and all related documents were submitted to all authorities as per existing regulations.
    Neither GetJet Airlines nor any of its related companies never owned above mentioned aircraft or any of its engines and never entered into any sale or purchase agreement. Furthermore, it’s important to mention that GetJet Airlines never had any dealings with Fly Armenia or any other parties related to Fly Armenia.
    Please note, GetJet Airlines is not a leasing company. GetJet Airlines is an IOSA registered airline headquartered in Vilnius, Lithuania that offers ACMI and Charter services. We fly on behalf of well-known international airlines and major tour operators in Baltic states.
    Statements about GetJet Airlines posted by you are misleading and incorrect. Information you have provided in your article may have negative impact on the company’s reputation.
    I kindly ask you to correct the article and remove GetJet Airlines reference.

    Regards,
    Darius Viltrakis
    CEO GetJet Airlines

  19. Is this something dangerous to post a sanction to particular country, but let the country still fly the aircraft? There must be skipped maintenance due to sanction. Does aircraft manufacture has concern, since the likelihood of the aircraft get issue is higher, and it will impact to safety record for those particular aircraft?

  20. Why isn’t the US punishing Armenia for breaking US sanctions? This is ridiculous! Other countries are severely punished for this behavior. Why not Armenia? Is it because of the powerful Armenian special interests, who contribute to many election campaigns on Capitol Hill? Pay to play?

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