TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — An Iranian passenger plane safely landed Thursday after part of an engine fell off during a flight with 426 passengers and crew members aboard, state TV reported.
Faramarz Sarvi, deputy head of the private airline Mahan Air, told state TV that the pilots of the Boeing 747 decided to return to Tehran's Mehrabad Airport two minutes after takeoff when, "A piece of engine number three came off and hit the body of the plane."
Sarvi said the incident took place at 7:15 a.m. and that all regular inspections and checks on the plane had been conducted prior to departure.
He said all passengers left for their destination, the southern city of Bandar Abbas, on another aircraft.
Sarvi also was quoted by the semi-official Tasnim news agency as saying that, "a piece of turbine," fell off and that the incident is under investigation.
Iran has a history of air crashes in recent years, leading to hundreds of casualties.
In The latest one in 2014, a passenger plane crashed in a residential area near Tehran and burst into flames, killing dozens after the plane's tail struck some electrical cables.
The crashes were blamed on aging aircraft and poor maintenance. Many of the aircraft used in Iran date back to before the country's 1979 Islamic Revolution, which disrupted ties with the U.S. and Europe.
International and specifically U.S. sanctions have prohibited the sale of Western planes and some spare parts to Iran, making it impossible for the country to buy new planes and difficult to keep its aging Boeing and Airbus fleet safely flying.
After a landmark nuclear deal reached Iran and world powers in July, Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said his country may soon be able to buy badly needed new planes to replace its aging fleet.
Iranian officials said the country was prepared to spend about $20 billion to purchase about 400 new planes over the next decade.
In 2013, the U.S. Treasury Department allowed Boeing and General Electric to provide a limited amount of spare parts for engines of U.S.-made planes that were in service in Iran.
The last time Iran bought new aircraft directly from a Western company was in the early 1990s from the Dutch manufacturer Fokker, which later went bankrupt.
Iran tried to circumvent the sanctions by buying second-hand civilian aircraft from private companies and managed to keep its national carrier and other airlines going by renting aircraft from others.
Mahan Air itself faces U.S.-imposed sanctions separate from those covering Iran's broader aviation industry.
The U.S. Treasury Dept. imposed sanctions against the airline in 2011 after alleging that it transported personnel, weapons and funds for the Revolutionary Guard's elite Quds Force, which is tasked with foreign operations, and provided support to Lebanon's Iranian-backed militant group Hezbollah.
Associated Press writer Adam Schreck in Dubai, United Arab Emirates contributed to this report.