After crash, attention shifts to US-made helicopter carrying Iran's Raisi

A screen grab captured from a video shows the location of wreck of helicopter carrying Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and his delegation. (Photo/AA)

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi was on a US-made Bell 212 helicopter on Sunday when it crashed near the northwestern city of Tabriz, killing Raisi and his delegation that was coming back from Azerbaijan.

None of the passengers emerged alive from the wreckage of the helicopter, which Iran procured decades ago from the US before the 1979 Iranian revolution.

The Bell 212 was first manufactured in Fort Worth, Texas, before its factory was moved to the Canadian city of Mirabel, Quebec in 1988, with production ceasing in 1998.

Although the aircraft made its first flight in 1968 for military purposes, its durability and ease of use made a good choice for civilian transportation.

The Bell 212 has the capacity to carry up to 15 passengers, including the crew.

It can serve in firefighting missions, as well as cargo transport and armed reconnaissance.

Raisi's helicopter was reportedly modified to carry 15 passengers.

Technical specifications

The Bell 212, which can be flown with either one or two pilots, is 17.41 metres long, with a height of 3.83 metres from the ground.

It weighs 2,962 kilogrammes when empty, with a maximum takeoff weight of 5,080 kilogrammes and is powered by a 1,300-kilowatt engine with two rotors, each 14.63 meters long.

The helicopter normally flies at a speed of 190 kilometres but can reach up to 220 kilometres per hour in combat flight.

It can travel up to 439 kilometres and operate at a maximum altitude of 17,388 feet.

Maintenance, spare parts shortages

Iran has faced difficulties maintaining US-made weapons and vehicles due to years of sanctions that have also caused spare part shortages.

The crashed Bell 212 helicopter is estimated to be at least 45-years-old and it is believed that Iran's military have 10 of its type in its inventory.

Former Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif blamed the US for the high-profile deaths saying that Washington "has embargoed the sale of aircraft parts and does not allow the people of Iran to enjoy good aviation facilities."

But US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Washington "had no part to play in the crash" while the State Department argued that the "Iranian government that was responsible for the decision to fly a 45-year-old helicopter in what was described as poor weather conditions."

Iran has meanwhile appointed a commission to investigate the "dimensions and causes" of the accident.

Iran could have used Russian helicopters — expert

Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace analyst and consultant, said Iran likely is tapping the black market for parts amid sanctions on the country.

But he said Iran had access to an alternative in Russian helicopters.

"They are blaming sanctions, and that's correct, but there are no sanctions whatsoever on [Iran buying] Russian helicopters, and Russian helicopters are pretty good. They didn't have to fly this guy around" in such an old machine, Aboulafia said.

"They are blaming sanctions for their own incompetence. You could buy an MI-17 anytime. It's what Vladimir Putin flies in."

Aboulafia also questioned whether Iran has maintenance skills necessary for keeping older helicopters flying safely.

"There are a lot of parts available on the black market, especially for a 212 – that's a very old machine," he said.

"Half-century-old helicopters, if immaculately maintained, are OK. But black-market parts and whatever local maintenance capabilities they’ve got — that's not a good combination."


Source: TRT