Former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said during the inauguration ceremony before heading for a tour of of the 52-seat twin-turboprop airliner's factory in central Isfahan that the plane enjoys "international safety standards".
Captain Morteza Khani, a head of Iran's plane building company HESA, said that "the plane will officially enter the aviation line today (Sunday) after passing a flight test".
The airliner is groomed for flights in semi-official Safiran and Caspian airlines, which have applied to introduce the plane into their fleets in the next two months, the official added.
Ukraine sold the production license for 100 An-140 to Iran in 2000, the only foreign market Antonov's cash-strapped aircraft producers have yet managed to enter.
The airliner, with a high wing configuration and traditional tail unit as well as engines decked under its wings, has a range of 2,100 kilometers at a cruising speed of up to 575 kph.
Priced at nine million dollars according to media, it is one of the world's cheapest medium-range aircraft. The crash of an Antonov-140 in December in central Iran threatened to sap the airliner's prospects in the Islamic Republic.
The plane, carrying Ukrainian specialists to inaugurate a new aircraft that Antonov had built in Iran, crashed into mountains as it made a descent to land in Shahin-Shahr, killing all 44 people aboard.
Iranian officials were quick to stress that the crash was far from affecting the plan for building Iran-140 aircraft.
Iranian airlines are seeking to refurbish their aging fleet and meet demand in the face of rising passenger numbers despite their financial troubles and US sanctions which bar the sale of aircraft and parts to the Islamic Republic.
More than 100 Russian and Ukrainian enterprises are reportedly involved in Iran's production of the An-140, with some 80 percent of parts coming from Russia.
Morteza Khani said that the entire production of the aircraft will be conceded to Iran after 12 years.
The production line has cost Iran 253 million dollars and will have a capacity to assemble 12 aircraft per year. Iran, Russia and Ukraine are reportedly looking at a possible joint project to assemble Tupolev-334 jets in Iran.
... Payvand News - 6/15/03 ... --