A Japanese delegation will visit Tehran in December to discuss a deal to sell short-haul planes made by Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation to Iran, according to deputy Transport Minister Asghar Fakhriyeh-Kashan.
“The Mitsubishi Regional Jet seats less than 100 passengers. Since Iran Aseman Airlines mostly operates domestic flights, the Japanese plane is a good option for this airline,” he was quoted by the news portal of the Ministry of Roads and Urban Development as saying.
Iran-Japan talks on the MRJ planes began in June during the International Air Transport Association Conference in Dublin. Later in July, aviation officials from the two sides met at the Farnborough Air Show in London.
According to Fakhriyeh, Iran is willing to purchase 25 short-haul aircraft worth up to $500 million from the Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation.
The Japanese company, which is a unit of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, began market surveys in Iran last September, four months before the lifting of international sanctions.
MRJ is a twin-engine regional jet aircraft still under development in a partnership between majority owner Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Toyota Motor Corporation with design assistance from Toyota-affiliate Fuji Heavy Industries, already a manufacturer of aircraft.
It will be the first airliner designed and produced in Japan since the NAMC YS-11 of the 1960s, which was produced at a loss. Its first flight was in November 2015, with deliveries scheduled for 2018 for the 90-seat model.
Since it is developing the 90-seater first, the company plans to deliver its other MRJ version with 70 seats in 2019 at the earliest.
“The negotiations are in initial stages and neither side has committed to any obligations,” Fakhriyeh was quoted as saying earlier.
Iran has already struck multi-billion dollar agreements with French planemaker Airbus and its American rival Boeing to purchase more than 200 planes for flag carrier Iran Air. The preliminary deals have yet to be transformed into binding contracts as they face mounting opposition in the Republican-majority US Congress and the reluctance of big banks to finance the deals in fear of running afoul of US retribution.
According to Fakhriyeh, Iran needs 500 new aircraft in the next seven to eight years to modernize its ageing fleet battered by years of sanctions.
As for smaller jets, the CEO of flag-carrier Iran Air, Farhad Parvaresh says Iran has the capacity to add 50 regional planes to its fleet within the next 10 years, in addition to the 20 short-haul aircraft it has ordered from French-Italian plane maker ATR.
ATR—Avions de Transport Regional or Regional Air Transport in English is co-owned by European aircraft manufacturer Airbus and Italian aerospace group Finmeccanica.