Boeing to Sell Parts to Iran; Are Airplanes Next?

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The U.S. Treasury Department on Friday issued a license to Boeing Co. (NYSE: BA) allowing the company to sell airplane parts to Iran. The license is related to the deal between the U.S. and five other nations, and Iran over Iran’s nuclear energy development program.

General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE) has also received an export license that will let it export parts to Iran, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. GE is expected to meet with Iranian officials next week to discuss Iran’s needs.

Iran owns Boeing 747s and 727s which it acquired before the revolution of 1979. GE very likely built the engines for at least some of those aircraft. A Boeing spokesman said that the company does not yet know what Iran wants, but that the company has no plans to send its field-service technicians to Iran.

Iran Air, the country’s national airline, owns 51 planes, including 16 Fokker-100s that went out of production in 1997; 3 Boeing 727s that went out of production in 1984; and 9 older models of the 747. Boeing said the last 747 was delivered to Iran Air in August 1979. The airline also owns 23 planes of older vintage from Airbus.

The country’s several airlines are all in the same shape as Iran Air: old planes purchased new decades ago or old planes leased or bought second-hand. By one account, 17 Iranian planes had crashed over the 25 years to 2009, killing approximately 1,500 people.

There’s no question that a rapprochement with Iran would benefit aircraft makers like Boeing and Airbus. Regional jet makers like Brazil’s Embraer SA (NYSE: ERJ) and Canada’s Bombardier Inc. would likely see benefits as well.

That day may come, but its not here yet and only the most wide-eyed optimist expects a normalization of U.S. relations with Iran any time soon. It pays to remember, though, that relations are better now than they have been in nearly 40 years. And Boeing, at least, would surely like to sell a few 777s to the Islamic Republic.

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