The Washington Post

Iranian hero pilot gets cold shoulder

Correction: In an earlier version of this story, the name of pilot Hooshang Shahbazi was incorrectly given as Hooshang Amiri.

An Iranian pilot whose spectacular emergency landing was captured on video will not be allowed to fly a plane for two months, the Fars news agency reported Saturday.

The video shows the Iran Air flight slowly approaching Tehran’s Mehrabad Airport on Oct. 18 with its nose landing gear jammed. As rescue workers prepared for the worst, Capt. Hooshang Shahbazi balanced the plane using only the landing gear under the wings until it came to a stop.

The 40-year-old Boeing 727, which was returning from Moscow, had been blacklisted in Europe but not in Russia. A similar plane crashed in February in western Iran during bad weather, killing 77.

Shahbazi complained to news media here that Iranian authorities have not expressed any gratitude for his efforts, which saved the lives of 94 passengers and 19 crew members.

“They did not even call to say thank you,” Shahbazi told the Etemaad newspaper, which is critical of the government, on Saturday. Instead he was told to stay home for two months to recuperate from the incident, the semi-official Fars news agency reported Saturday, adding that there will be an investigation into the cause.

Iran, which is not allowed to buy spare parts for its aging civil aviation fleet because of U.S. sanctions against the Islamic Republic, has a long history of plane crashes that have caused hundreds of deaths. In October, European fuel companies, under pressure from the United States, agreed to stop providing fuel to Iranian planes.

But even as Iran’s state television remains silent on the effects of U.S. sanctions, Shahbazi’s heroic actions have also gone unmentioned in Iran’s state media. Authorities ignored the incident, which highlights Iran’s growing need for new planes and the increasing pressure of ever tougher sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

Shahbazi cited a 2009 incident in the United States in which a U.S. Airways airliner was struck by a flock of birds. Captain Chesley Sullenberger managed to safely land the Airbus A320 on the Hudson River, steering away from Manhattan’s high-rises, saving the lives of all 155 aboard and turning him into a national hero.

Shahbazi said that while he was not expecting such a reception, Iranian authorities “should praise my colleagues in Iran Air. They only have to say ‘thank you,’ that’s all.”

Shahbazi had decided not to land his plane at Tehran’s International Imam Khomeni Airport because a crash there would have closed its only runway. “That would have been a disaster for Iran, also politically,” he said.

Passengers on board the Moscow-Tehran flight clapped and cheered as they exited the plane.

The plane, which suffered only minor damage, will be repaired and go back into service, an Iran Air spokesman said.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Get Zika news by email

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Show Comments

Sign up for email updates from the "Confronting the Caliphate" series.

You have signed up for the "Confronting the Caliphate" series.

Thank you for signing up
You'll receive e-mail when new stories are published in this series.
Most Read


Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Close video player
Now Playing

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.