Four Airbus A340s “Disappear” Over Iran

Four Airbus A340s “Disappear” Over Iran

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Four Airbus A340s “disappeared” over Iran, though there’s no need to send rescue teams. I first wrote about this a couple of days ago, though there’s now an update, as Iranian authorities have more or less confirmed what happened.

Airbus A340s fly from South Africa to Iran

On Friday, December 23, 2022, four Airbus A340-300s took off from O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg (JNB). After takeoff, the planes flew along the east coast of Africa, along the Gulf peninsula, and then toward Iran. While the flight plans for these planes indicated that they were headed to Uzbekistan, in reality they disappeared from radar over Iran, and landed at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport (IKA).

For context, all four of these planes were former Turkish Airlines Airbus A340-300s, which left the carrier’s fleet in 2018 and 2019. The planes were purchased by a company in Hong Kong named Avro Global, which exclusively owned these four planes. For the past few years, the planes have simply been parked at Johannesburg Airport, and were registered in Guernsey.

There wasn’t much sign of activity until recently, when the planes were re-registered in Burkina Faso with new registration codes — XT-AKA, XT-AKB, XT-AKK and XT-ALM.

Then shortly thereafter these planes started their journeys out of South Africa. For what it’s worth, the A340s were all produced between 1996 and 2000, so they’re 22-26 years old.

This is how Iranian airlines acquire aircraft

The United States has sanctions against Iran, prohibiting companies from selling US-made products to Iran. This obviously presents a major challenge for Iran Air and Mahan Air, Iran’s two largest airlines. They operate outdated fleets, as they can only get planes secondhand.

Even the planes they get secondhand are largely acquired illegitimately, given the restrictions in place that prevent these kinds of transactions. There’s now new satellite footage showing these four planes parked in Tehran.

Furthermore, a spokesperson for Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization has confirmed that four wide body jets have been delivered to Iran in “recent days.” Tt seems highly likely that these jets will be going to Mahan Air, Iran’s largest private airline. Mahan Air already flies several Airbus A340s, most of which used to fly for Lufthansa and Virgin Atlantic back in the day.

Interestingly the flights operated with the code “MANXXXX” (with “XXXX” being four numbers). “MAN” isn’t an airline code, but it sorta kinda sounds like it could stand for Mahan Air, no?

While I can’t personally vouch for this, rumor has it that at least two of the Airbus A340s may be headed to Syrian Airlines and Venezelua’s Conviasa, as those airlines are also impacted by sanctions. Conviasa, for example, operates some fascinating routes, including Caracas to Tehran, and Caracas to Moscow.

One certainly has to wonder how exactly all of this goes down, and which parties could potentially be held liable:

  • I would assume Turkish Airlines had nothing to do with this in any form, since the airline sold these jets years ago
  • Was the company that owned these jets set up specifically to violate sanctions and get these planes to Iran?
  • What involvement does Burkina Faso have for registering these planes?
  • Who were the pilots who flew these planes from South Africa to Iran? Were these Iranian pilots, and if so, does a dozen Iranian pilots showing up to fly some planes from South Africa to Uzbekistan not raise any red flags?

This sort of seems like a situation where a lot of parties have to turn a blind eye.

https://twitter.com/Gerjon_/status/1606613432668659712

Bottom line

Four Airbus A340s took off one after another from South Africa bound for Uzbekistan, and amazingly enough they all “diverted” to Iran. This seems to basically be the standard way that Iranian airlines get around sanctions and take delivery of planes. Iranian officials have now confirmed that four planes have been delivered to the country, so clearly that’s what’s going on here.

Fascinating stuff, eh? What do you make of these “disappearing” A340s?

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  1. Anonymous Guest

    They might need them to escape before becoming No-fly zone..

  2. Bricktop Guest

    Good to see that the money Iran are getting for the drones they sold to Russia to commit war crimes in Ukraine is being put to good use.

    And yet some still applaud. Shameful

  3. Andy Diamond

    It’s important to distinguish between UN, EU and US sanctions against Iran. UN sanctions only cover material which could be used to build nuclear weapons, EU sanctions go a bit further and include for instance parts of Iranian drones and US sanctions go furthest. As far as I know, civilian aircraft are only blocked by US sanctions.

    Obviously, any country or company performing regular flights to the US would fear retaliation, but Burkina Faso does...

    It’s important to distinguish between UN, EU and US sanctions against Iran. UN sanctions only cover material which could be used to build nuclear weapons, EU sanctions go a bit further and include for instance parts of Iranian drones and US sanctions go furthest. As far as I know, civilian aircraft are only blocked by US sanctions.

    Obviously, any country or company performing regular flights to the US would fear retaliation, but Burkina Faso does not have any flights to the US. And the companies involved, are likely to be dissolved after completing the deal …

  4. Duck Ling Guest

    "The United States has sanctions against Iran, prohibiting companies from selling US-made products to Iran. This obviously presents a major challenge for Iran Air and Mahan Air, Iran’s two largest airlines. They operate outdated fleets, as they can only get planes secondhand."

    So why would this apply to Airbus aircraft? They are european made. Or, does the EU have similar sanctions to the US against Iran?

    1. Max Guest

      because Airbus airplanes do have US parts in them. And because Airbus wants to continue doing business in the US. US sanctions do cover non-US companies as well if they do business in the US.

  5. Roger McManus Guest

    Who is monitoring these posts? Sort of off-topic?

  6. Brandon Biden Guest

    Interesting, they got 4 340s, probably for a song, and pointless to sanction Burkina, as its broke, busted...s Africa probably knew, could never prove..but know those planes are tracked & if land in a "quasi friendly" state, they will be asked to detain it. Then they have decision 2 make...iran will get les than a year out of them

  7. Snoozed Guest

    Wait, I am looking at one of the pictures and am a little confused. When did BA start flying back to Tehran? Why are their tails in the background of the photo?

    1. Luke Guest

      I think that photo was taken at Johannesburg airport in South Africa, not Tehran, which would explain the BA tail in the background.

  8. Alec New Member

    'Tt seems highly likely that these jets will be going to Mahan Air, Iran’s largest private airline. Mahan Air"

    next paragraph..

    "While I can’t personally vouch for this, rumor has it that at least two of the Airbus A340s may be headed to Syrian Airlines and Venezelua’s Conviasa"

    Article consistency when you make updates ;)

  9. Steve Guest

    This is an interesting aviation story. Apparently many of those in the comments have a lot of free time on their hands. Get a life!

    1. Icarus Guest

      Do you understand irony, given the time you took to make a pointless comment.

    2. SNO Guest

      And your arrogance is beyond believe.

  10. Dave Guest

    I’m surprised that none are ex-SAA

  11. iamhere Guest

    Turkish airlines is not involved considering they sold off the jets years ago. The question is will the others be punished somehow. If countries like the US want to really control it then they will enforce punishments.

  12. Alan Diamond

    Good for Iran. The sanctions are not recognized by much of the world.

    1. Iran Revolution 2022 Guest

      So are you supporting the I.R. Iran child killer, rapist, murderer? How would you like if one of your family members (mother, sister, wife) that have no passport or visa restriction to be highjacked in the air to return them to Iran and imprison rape and torture them as was done to Ali Dai, the Iranian international football star?

    2. Icarus Guest

      You mean sanctions by the civilised world versus a country living in the 14th century, executing minors and lgbtq and denying women any rights.

    3. SNO Guest

      I have no sympathy for the religious leadership of Iran, but there are common people living in Iran, who liked to travel like the rest of the world population. While the cruelty of the Islamic regime is beyond believe, I think sanctions like not allowed to purchase an US manufactured product is punishing the whole population and not only the cruel leader ship.
      In that sense I'm considering the continued use of old, outdated...

      I have no sympathy for the religious leadership of Iran, but there are common people living in Iran, who liked to travel like the rest of the world population. While the cruelty of the Islamic regime is beyond believe, I think sanctions like not allowed to purchase an US manufactured product is punishing the whole population and not only the cruel leader ship.
      In that sense I'm considering the continued use of old, outdated equipment as reasonable. It's better then the US attitude "We control the world, and if you don't do what we want we scrap the planes".
      So fare no Iranian airliner got used by suicide bombers like in 911. It's the opposite, all the very old equipment is maintained and used long after any western airline had retired it. There comments like yours and the other fellow are kind of superficial, childish, back seat driving. I suggest you be thankful every day for the luck of the draw, that you were not born in Iran and forced to live there.

    4. Brandon Biden Guest

      Alan, while I like the Persian people, that regime is murderous and supports global terror on 5 continents,
      If that's ok w you, you need serious help

  13. foboscan New Member

    Guys, you are just not following the news. Viktor Bout, recently released from American prison decided to open Bout Air. Business class customers will receive a gold-plated AK47 as a welcome gift, and duty-free shopping on board will satisfy even the most demanding customers. Apparently, even the *Kalibr* cruise missiles will be available. I wonder if the frequent flyer program will be introduced shortly.

    1. Max Guest

      IFE will be a livestream of the camera feed on the cruise missile.

  14. John Dogas Guest

    I don’t see how sanctions created by the illegitimate U.S. government not supported by half of the U.S. population apply to countries not called the U.S. It makes no sense why the U.S. government can dictate what foreign countries do.

    1. Jason Brandt Lewis Guest

      “Illegitimate.” Never knew, John, you had such a great sense of humor…

    2. henare Diamond

      Lol! Everyone wants that US cash. All those who want thst cash have to play by those rules. Illegitimate, though? Not a chance.

  15. TravelinWilly Diamond

    So THESE were the 340s parked in the middle closed taxiway for the last 3++ years! I was wondering who they belonged to previously, as they've been just sitting there and they didn't look like SAA.

    Thank you for the info.! I'm surprised that none of these are going to Air Koryo. :) :) :) :) :)

  16. Creditcrunch Diamond

    I hope their cargo holds were empty and this was not some elaborate mission to send arms or parts to Russia via their Iranian friends.

    1. Michael Guest

      I'm guessing this was more a ploy to get Iran some new (pre-loved) airliners. If it was an arms trafficking deal, an Il-76 could do the heavy lifting far more capably.

  17. Bagoly Guest

    Or to be used for flying arms from Iran to Russia?

    1. Steve Diamond

      Well the United States did recently release a major arms dealer for a basketball player. So not surprised to see planes and weapons getting their way to Iran and Russia.

    2. Max Guest

      Basketball player? You mean drug junkie and potentially dealer.

    3. Ben L. Diamond

      Nothing makes Max madder than seeing a Black person released from prison

    4. Max Guest

      She is a convicted criminal. She herself has admitted to importing and using these drugs. In a fair, equal world, her skin color will not give her a free pass for this serious offense.

    5. Eve Guest

      Max, Get off the Tucker Carlson daily, go take a walk, climb a mountain, travel the world, get a life!

    6. SwimBikeFly Guest

      "Get off the Tucker Carlson daily" lol...what does that even mean?

      and fwiw brittney griner knowingly brought illegal drugs into a foreign country. those are facts.

    7. Ole Guest

      Yeah, 9 yrs imprisonment for 0.702 grams or 0.02oz of hash oil seems completely fair to me. Just like lynching people for daring to supposedly look at females of certain race, asking for respect, or just for a dare after a night of binge drinking.

    8. Max Guest

      @Ole
      Lets have a fair comparison:

      Singapore does have the best airline in the world and death penalty for drug dealers.

      The US has the worst major airlines in the entire world and you can freely consume and deal drugs publicly in the streets.

      The success clearly proves Singapore right. And heck, before February 24th, russian Aeroflot was quality-wise also miles ahead of the big US airlines.

    9. Reality Checker Guest

      Bwahahahahahahhahaha! Aeroflot miles ahead of the big US airlines? When was the last time you flew commercial? Putin must be paying your salary. Dream on, you paid troll.

    10. Jason Brandt Lewis Guest

      Damn, Max! I haven’t read logic like that since my kids were in preschool! “The dog ate my homework. Ergo, I had no homework to do.”

    11. Dt123 Member

      This entire comment chain is hilarious. Let's just clarify some facts for everyone. "Griner pleaded guilty to a drugs charge in a Russian court, but denied she had intentionally broken the law." This is from Reuters. So, Griner did in fact break Russian law. The only leniency she was asking for was predicated on the notion that she did not do it intentionally. You know who else didn't do things "intentionally"? The cop who accidentally...

      This entire comment chain is hilarious. Let's just clarify some facts for everyone. "Griner pleaded guilty to a drugs charge in a Russian court, but denied she had intentionally broken the law." This is from Reuters. So, Griner did in fact break Russian law. The only leniency she was asking for was predicated on the notion that she did not do it intentionally. You know who else didn't do things "intentionally"? The cop who accidentally pulled a gun- instead of a tazer on Daunte Wright. At trial she admitted on the stand that it was an accident. Anyone who wants to pretend that the excerpt in quotations above is not fact and this *must* be a result of either Griners race or anything else is suffering from Trump derangement syndrome and needs to see a doctor immediately. Here's another concept for those struggling with TDS, If you break a law in another country you are subject to the judiciary system of that country. No matter how screwed up it is. You cannot say she is a political prisoner if she openly admitted to breaking the law.

    12. Steve Diamond

      Ole. I laugh when people complain about the laws in US and have no idea what the rest of the world is really like. "Fair" doesnt apply in every country, every country has their own laws many of which if not most all are far harsher than the US. Really easy though to not get arrested for drugs in a foreign country by just not brining drugs into a foreign country, pretty simple concept when...

      Ole. I laugh when people complain about the laws in US and have no idea what the rest of the world is really like. "Fair" doesnt apply in every country, every country has their own laws many of which if not most all are far harsher than the US. Really easy though to not get arrested for drugs in a foreign country by just not brining drugs into a foreign country, pretty simple concept when you break it down. You do know that being an american doesnt mean US laws apply when you leave america right.

    13. Bagoly Guest

      "Really easy though to not get arrested for drugs in a foreign country by just not brining drugs into a foreign country"
      I am in no way supporting Griner, who did indeed take those drugs.
      But there are quite a few countries where not doing something does not mean that one will not be arrested for it, and one of them is Russia.

    14. Eve Guest

      If you also knew anything, which I know you don’t. From my experience working in Russia, It is openly easy to find drugs in Moscow, in many popular clubs which are located in Tverskaya (which is the road right in front of Kremlin) and Arbat (one of the most expensive streets).

      The HQ of FSB is also just a few blocks away from one of the largest nightclubs in the city, but does the...

      If you also knew anything, which I know you don’t. From my experience working in Russia, It is openly easy to find drugs in Moscow, in many popular clubs which are located in Tverskaya (which is the road right in front of Kremlin) and Arbat (one of the most expensive streets).

      The HQ of FSB is also just a few blocks away from one of the largest nightclubs in the city, but does the police or the authority do anything about it?

      Heck I am also aware of brothels in Arbat, who are frequented by the elites and government officials.

      Fact is, rules are not applied in that country. Griner was a political prisoner, nothing more then that

    15. Michael Guest

      Ole, however you feel about the drug laws, Russia decided that is how they will run their country. There is no such thing as a "minor drug infraction" in Russia, and anyone who would bring drugs or other illicit substances into that country is a moron.

      Would you bring those same vape cartridges into Singapore or Indonesia? Not likely. They might hang you for that, which is their right. Their country, their laws.

    16. Ry Guest

      It should be a basic human right to not be hung for hashish oil no matter where one is in the world.

    17. BradStPete Gold

      She is not a convicted criminal (in the US) she made stupid mistake your racist moron you

    18. Notracist Guest

      Are you suggesting that a person 'without color' would not have been arrested for the same offence?

      Maybe in Singapore only dada dealers of color get executed?

      Not everything is racism but in the US you certainly get a free race card every time you riot in the streets.

    19. DenB Diamond

      Convicted by whom? There's trials and there's trials.
      Mandela was a "convicted terrorist", justifying his imprisonment for decades. Glad they didn't give him a 'free pass" just cuz he's non-white?

      We get so much done here in the Comments section.

    20. Pogonation Guest

      Presumably they have existing aircraft that could do that??

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Ben L. Diamond

Nothing makes Max madder than seeing a Black person released from prison

11
Eve Guest

Max, Get off the Tucker Carlson daily, go take a walk, climb a mountain, travel the world, get a life!

8
Ole Guest

Yeah, 9 yrs imprisonment for 0.702 grams or 0.02oz of hash oil seems completely fair to me. Just like lynching people for daring to supposedly look at females of certain race, asking for respect, or just for a dare after a night of binge drinking.

6
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