On December 14, 2018, a Norwegian Boeing 737 MAX 8 bound from Dubai to Oslo diverted to Shiraz, Iran. This diversion was due to an engine issue, and as usual, in a situation like that the priority is to get the plane on the ground as quickly and safely as possible.
The 186 passengers and six crew were flown to Oslo the next day on a “rescue” flight operated by a different plane.
However, for the plane itself this diversion presented a bigger issue than most were anticipating. While Norwegian sent engineers to Iran to try and fix the plane the next day, they weren’t able to do so, and realized they needed to replace parts of the engine.
One not-so-small problem — due to US trade sanctions on Iran, getting permission to actually get products from Boeing to Iran proved to be a major headache. This is the same reason that Iran’s airlines aren’t able to buy new Boeing planes (and this presents huge safety issues — Iran Air and Mahan Air buy used Boeing planes, but in some instances can’t perform proper maintenance on them since they can’t get new parts).
Since any product that’s more than 10% of US origin requires a license to be sent to Iran, this has been a bureaucratic headache. But it looks like there’s finally some good news on this front.
As noted by Reuters, a Norwegian spokesperson has said that the airline now has a new engine being flown to Iran, and they’re hoping the plane will be able to leave the country within the next week:
“We are in the process of having a new engine flown to Iran for our Boeing 737 MAX within the next few days. It is too early to say exactly when the aircraft will be airborne, but our goal is to fly the aircraft back to Scandinavia within the next week.”
It has already been well over two months since the plane diverted, so it looks like in the end the plane will have been on the ground in Iran for 2.5 months… and that’s the best case scenario.
I understand rules are rules, but one has to wonder how this would be handled in the future, and to what extent pilots would be discouraged from diverting to Iran in cases like this, even if it’s in the best interest of passengers otherwise.
I’ll update this post when the plane has actually taken off from Iran, since it’s not over until it’s over…