On 23 December 2022, a day the world was busy with Christmas preparations, four Airbus A340-300s left Johannesburg officially bound for Uzbekistan, but landed in Tehran, Iran.
The A340 quartet took off from Johannesburg one after the other and flew towards Uzbekistan, according to the flight plan entered, with Burkino Faso registrations XT-AKA, XT-AKB, XT-AKK and XT-ALM.
But once in Iranian airspace, the aircraft diverted to Tehran where they landed beforehand, as Scramble magazine reports.
The four aircraft were withdrawn from use by Turkish Airlines in late 2018/early 2019.
After a few months of storage at Istanbul, they were ferried to Johannesburg in March and April 2019 and all four were registered in the Guernsey (2-REG) register on behalf of a company based in Hong Kong, called AVRO Global Limited as the new owner.
For more than three and a half years they stood around in South Africa as 2-AVRA, 2-AVRB, 2-AVRC and 2-AVRD. But on the day before Christmas Eve, they suddenly moved.
JUST IN: Visual confirmation that the 4x ex-Turkish Airlines (red tail and wing tips) Airbus A340-300 from 🇿🇦Johannesburg arrived to 🇮🇷Mehrabad International Airport in Tehran, Iran.
— Gerjon | חריון | غريون | ኼርዮን (@Gerjon_) December 29, 2022
The four aircraft involved are:
msn 115, 2-AVRA, ex TC-JDM
msn 180, 2-AVRB, ex TC-JDN
msn 270, 2-AVRC, ex TC-JIH
msn 331, 2-AVRD, ex TC-JII
Non-existent flight number
What caught the attention of aviation observers was the flight numbers used for this flight, a MAN airline code, which does not exist.
US sanctions have prevented Iranian companies from purchasing newer aircraft to bolster their aging and outdated fleet since 2011 for transporting military equipment on behalf of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards.
These sanctions prevent the export of equipment to Iran if it contains inputs produced in the United States.
In the case of Airbus aircraft, systems and components produced in various parts of the world are used, including equipment and American intellectual property.
On December 29, 2022, Hassan Khoshko, spokesman for the Civil Aviation Administration of Iran, confirmed that the four airliners had been acquired to be used by one of Iran’s airlines.
Khoshkho didn’t reveal further details about how the airliners were procured and who facilitated the purchase.
So despite the sanctions against Iran, it surely looks like some clandestine transaction took place and these four ex Turkish A340-300s will call Tehran home.