By: Mir M.Hosseini
Iranian Air Force C-130 airplane crashed on December 6, 2005 at 14:10 into a ten-floor apartment building in the residential Towhid area of Tehran near Mehrabad airport. Bound for Bandar Abbas, the plane was carrying 10 crew and 84 passengers mostly state journalists en route to cover a series of military exercises off the country's southern Persian Gulf coast.
The pilot reported engine trouble shortly after takeoff and unsuccessfully attempted to make an emergency landing at the Mehrabad Airport. The plane came down in a densely-populated area of Towhid, crashing into an apartment building where many Iranian Air Force personnel reside. The impact set off a big explosion, setting fire to the building. The fuel tanks were almost full so there was a large blast on impact with the base of an apartment block in a compound housing airport staff in Towhid area in Yaftabad district.
Iranian State media reported a death toll of 128 victims. After some dispute, they were called martyrs for benefits to their family members. Officials reported several children were among victims; they were at home due to the fact that schools were closed because of a smog alert in the capital. Some of those killed on the ground had been in their cars, whose burnt-out shells littered the crash site.
The crash was the worst aviation disaster in Iran since February 2003 when 302 people were killed as a military transport aircraft crashed in southern Iran. Due to U.S. sanctions, Iran is unable to buy new Western aircraft whether commercial or military, nor spare parts for existing aircraft from U.S. manufacturers. American-built military planes now operating in Iran were purchased under the old regime during the 1970s. Iranian officials blame the country's poor aviation record on the sanctions. The Iranian Air Force is believed to have about 15 ageing US-made C-130 Hercules airplanes in operation.
Mehrabad International airport is the oldest airport in Tehran and handles both domestic and military flights. When it was built more than 60 years ago it was located outside the capital, but with the growth of Tehran's urban, the airport has become surrounded by residential areas.
After 2007, most international flights started being routed to the new Imam Khomeini airport built on the Qom highway.