Norwegian Air Boeing 737MAX 8 ‘Stuck’ In Iran

Update: 21:50 GMT: These passengers will now spend the night in Shiraz, and travel tomorrow, 15 December, on the rescue 737 aircraft which arrived earlier this evening.

Much like many brand new commercial aircraft, Boeing’s 737 Max’s entry-into-service hasn’t been the smoothest — and the latest incident (in what is a string of 737 Max related events) took place earlier this morning, with a brand new Norwegian Air jet.

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Flying from Dubai (DXB) to Oslo (OSL), Norwegian Air’s two-month-old Boeing 737 MAX 8 encountered engine trouble, and following around 20 minutes of flying at its cruising altitude of 32,000ft…the newly built American jet initiated an emergency descent to Shiraz International Airport, located in south-central Iran.

Before its landing, the aircraft circulated several times over the region, after flight crew closed down Engine #1 due to an ‘engine oil-associated’ fault on the brand-new jet.

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The emergency-landing into Shiraz is both the first time Norwegian Air has ever landed in the Islamic Republic of Iran, and also the first time a brand new, Western-operated U.S. built Boeing 737 Max 8 has ever touched down in the country — a country currently under severe, reinstated economic sanctions, imposed by President Trump’s administration in Washington D.C.

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For Norwegian Air, Iran is far from an ideal diversion point, but given the nature of this emergency — it was necessary.

Norwegian has very little Middle Eastern exposure (in terms of destinations) and for an airline unfamiliar with Iranian laws, there are logistical and cultural complications when 737 MAX 8 full of passengers touches down as an unscheduled arrival.

Iranian law states all women must wear headscarves (in order to cover hair) — and this also applies to uniformed cabin crew. On scheduled foreign airlines flights to Iran, cabin crew typically cover their hair with a headscarf during the descent towards an Iranian airport, and announcements are made to passengers informing female passengers of the Iranian law.

Back when British Airways operated flights between London Heathrow and Tehran, cabin crew had to wear winter jackets with hoods (even in summer), as BA didn’t want to invest in headscarves.

On today’s diverted Norwegian Air 737 MAX 8, passengers and crew are being kept in a dedicated area (airside) of Shiraz International Airport terminal, given female passengers and crew are not able to adhere to Iranian law, with regards to the headscarves.

While the passengers have been on the ground for most of the day, a Norwegian Air rescue aircraft is currently on its way to Shiraz, to pick up the stranded passengers.

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With regards to the Norwegian Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft which is currently stuck in Shiraz with a faulty engine — fixing the jet will likely have added complications, given the location of this diversion.

Sanctions have left all of Iran’s 14 registered commercial airlines operating an ageing, fragile fleet of passenger jets, and while flying on an older aircraft in the majority of the rest of the world is perfectly safe – (given constant maintenance, cockpit software updates, structural upgrades, etc) – in Iran, just being able to obtain spare parts is incredibly difficult – and now, illegal.

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With American sanctions against Iran reinstated last month, US-manufactured content cannot legally be imported into the Islamic Republic — hence why Airbus and Boeing aircraft deals with Iran worth $38 billion had to be scrapped earlier this year.

Importing spare parts for existing Airbus and Boeing aircraft in Iran is now forbidden, as anything with 10% or more US technology content requires US licences.

Can Boeing send a spare part to Iran? Current U.S. sanction terms state that “Specific licenses may be issued on a case-by-case basis for the exportation or reexportation of goods, services, and technology to ensure the safety of civil aviation and safe operation of U.S.-origin commercial passenger aircraft” — a policy that may have to be exercised.

It’s also worth highlighting that it’s perfectly normal for foreign airlines to fly through Iranian airspace. Iran is profiting from the recent increase in air traffic, and Iran’s Aeronautical Operations confirmed there had been a 75% increase in overflights, averaging around 900 flights through Iranian airspace per day. As a result, Iran’s revenue from overflight and navigation fees has increased, and the country earns approximately $1025 from each overflight depending, on the size and weight of the airline jet.

To add to the complexity of this specific situation, the passengers have now officially entered Iran, meaning many may no longer be eligible to travel to the U.S. under the visa-waiver program which Europeans are eligible for.

In addition to this, there are passengers on this flight who are ticketed: Dubai-Oslo-New York — which again, could prove complicated, given America’s harsh sanctions on to Iran, which include travel to/from the Islamic Republic.

Boeing’s 737 Max 8 is headline news elsewhere, as Indonesia’s Lion Air prepares to cancel its existing orders for the jets, following Lion Air’s ‘anger’ at Boeing’s response to the Lion Air 737 Max 8 crash that killed 189 people in October. Lion Air claims the U.S. planemaker unfairly implicated Lion Air in the deadly crash.

Final Thought

If indeed this stranded aircraft does require a spare part, it will (theoretically) need special permission from the U.S. for a legal import to Iran — something that hasn’t happened during Trump’s administration, and since the return of the sanctions.

There are no established maintenance facilities in Shiraz, or nearby, that are licensed to work on a Boeing 737 Max 8 — and this is likely to add to the difficulty.

For now, the newly-built American jet is to remain on the tarmac in Iran.

Norwegian Air has provided a statement:

“Due to a technical issue, the flight from Dubai to Oslo diverted to Shiraz International Airport. The aircraft landed normally and taxied to a gate allowing passengers to disembark. The safety of our passengers and crew is always our number one priority. Passengers are being looked after by airport staff. Norwegian has sent a relief aircraft to Shiraz International Airport to allow passengers to continue their journey to Oslo as soon as possible. We would like to apologise for any inconvenience that this delay may have caused.”

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17 thoughts on “Norwegian Air Boeing 737MAX 8 ‘Stuck’ In Iran

  1. These guys are safer in Iran than anywhere else in the world. The Iranian hospitality is second to none. I am sure Iranian people dont ask for a thank you but stop creating fake news about this and bu the way west should be a shame of themseleves for punishing great people of Iran by not letting them have technology as important for their safety as passenger planes. Iranians should take this plane and send these guys back on the donky backs but trust me Iranian people are far too sincere and lovely and they respect the people of the world.

    1. they are now our guests and no one cares more about the guest than iranians ,believe me they or totally fine hope this issue be fixed ASAP and they return back home safely

    2. You mean U.S is the number one sponsor of terror in the world! It is because of American stupid politics that cause many innocent people die every day in the whole world!! Stop blaming Iran or any other country..

  2. People are very respectful and friendly toward tourists. Iran is very safe and people will be prepared to help you in any difficulty.

    1. Given the whole situation, I think an attempt at a one engine TO would be worthwhile. Otherwise with the sanctions in place, it is stuck there forever.

  3. Welcome to the land of Cyrus the great. A land that has no use or respect for the trumpet type of people. Please make sure to take the broken plane with you when ready to leave! Wish you a relaxed time while in Iran.

  4. Was it Norway that accused Iran of terrorism recently? I think all passengers should be kept in Iran on the terrorism and espionage charges

  5. Some info from someone close to this situation.

    In Europe, the hospitality of Iranians is well known, and the service and support received in Shiraz has been Stellar.

    Feedback tells us that the professionalism and kindness being shown both PAX and Crew, rivals and surpasses, what we can expect from airports in Europe.

    I am sure there will be interviews in the coming days. It will be interesting to see what these tells us.

  6. I had an accident skiing in Iran a few years ago and the level of support and careness I received from the Iranian people during that period was something I have never experienced anywhere else in my entire life. People that I had never seen before were looking after me in the hospital and taking care of my family offering their homes for them to stay during the one week that I had to stay hospitalised. I have not enough words to express my gratitufor them. Passengers and crew will be treated as if they were with their parents at home. Thank you Iranian people!

  7. I was on this flight and I will say the people in Shiraz, Iran are some of the most hospitable in the world. From what we saw, Iran is a wonderful country not as it portrayed in the media. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to explore Shiraz more which by the way has a few highly acclaimed UNESCO sites.

    The accommodations were sufficient but the communication by Norwegian was just atrocious. Additionally, the stop in Warsaw was definitely planned ahead of time because they announced it less than an hour before we landed in Warsaw (definitely not enough time to coordinate a landing and refueling in 15 minutes).

    To add insult to injury the ground staff in Oslo were rude and dismissive. Also, they make their website very confusing and hard to get in touch with people. I heard other passengers complain about being hung up on when they tried to call customer service. While the fares may seem appealing just know that if anything goes wrong Norwegian will not help.

  8. I used to fly into Tehran regularly with Emirates. The Iranians are very friendly and professional, and their airports and services were all made using American technology during the time of the Shah. Norwegian Air will have a fly-away team of Engineers who will arrive, an EK 777 will drop in a new engine and the whole job will take about twelve hours. Nothing to see here. This industry is run under ICAO regulations and the AOG procedures are all documented and well-developed. Pity the jumpy journos don’t write a story on how well it works.

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