Dozens of passengers on board an Iranian passenger plane were feared dead on Sunday when the plane crashed into the country’s Zagros mountain range with emergency services finding it difficult to locate the wreckage in blizzard conditions.

Iran has suffered multiple aviation disasters over the years the most recent included a Sepahan Airlines plane crash that killed 39 people just after take-off from Tehran.

The aircraft involved in the latest crash an ATR72, was 24 years old. Preliminary reports said that the plane crashed due to reduced visiblity but questions were raised about the planes fitness.  The crash can be attributed to the age of the aircraft, although there is nothing inherently unsafe about flying old aircraft if only they were meticulously maintained to ensure safe flight.

However, the country has been devoid of expertise and equipment in the aviation field for years, which has made flying relatively unsafe in the region. Until a few years ago, Iran was prevented from purchasing new air fleets due to the international sanctions imposed on them. 

Iran plane An Iranian passenger plane crashed moments after takeoff from Tehran, killing at least 38 people on board and narrowly avoiding many more deaths when it plummeted to the ground near a busy market Aug. 10, 2014. Photo: Getty

Iran's state media blamed the U.S. sanctions imposed on Iran since the 1970’s — which prohibits the country from entering into trade deals with the U.S. — for the crash. However, when Iran brokered the nuclear deal, the U.S. lifted their sanctions in 2016 on aviation purchases enabling Iran to buy new fleets.

Last June, Aseman Airlines finalized an agreement to buy 30 Boeing 737 MAX jets for $3 billion, with an option to buy 30 more.

In April 2017, Boeing issued a statement confirming the deal ventured into by the two parties with the approval of U.S. government.

The statement said: “Boeing confirms the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with Iran Aseman Airlines, expressing the airline’s intent to purchase 30 Boeing 737 MAX airplanes with a list price value of $3 billion. The agreement also provides the airline with purchase rights for 30 additional 737 MAXs.”

“Boeing negotiated the MOA under authorizations from the U.S. government following a determination that Iran had met its obligations under the nuclear accord signed in 2015,” it added.

The delivery of the planes was slated to reach Iran by 2018.

In December 2016, Airbus and Iran signed a deal for 100 aircraft which included 46 A320-family, 38 A330-family and 16 A350 XWB aircraft. Deliveries were to begin in early 2017 but so far only a handful aircrafts have been delivered.

In January, Reuters reported there might be a significant delay in the delivery of the aircraft.

“I think those deals will get fulfilled, maybe not on the original schedule,” Airbus sales chief John Leahy told Reuters in an interview

“We have to arrange financing; they have to understand about making pre-delivery payments,” he added.

The airlines' public relations chief Mohammad Tabatabai told state broadcaster IRIB that Aseman Airlines flight EP3704 disappeared off the radar several minutes after takeoff. He first said all the passengers perished in the crash, however, he later retracted the statement saying since emergency services couldn’t locate the remains of the plane they were unable to confirm the number of casualties.

"We still have no access to the spot of the crash and therefore we cannot accurately and definitely confirm the death of all passengers," he told the Iranian news agency.