A Norwegian Air Boeing 737 MAX 8 on its way from Dubai, United Arab Emirates to Oslo, Norway experienced a technical malfunction Friday that forced it to make an emergency landing in Southern Iran.
The Norwegian Air plane, carrying 189 passengers and crew, experienced engine trouble about 20 minutes after departure and started an emergency descent from an altitude of 32,000 feet over southern Iran.
The plane landed safely at Shiraz International Airport and there were no injuries, but the passengers and crew had to remain overnight near the airport while Norwegian Air sent a relief Boeing 737-800 plane to pick them up.
As Aviation Analyst noted, Iran was far from an ideal place to land given the cultural and logistical obstacles. Any females entering Iran are required by law to cover their heads, and female passengers and crew generally cover their heads with a scarf as the plane makes it descent.
The passengers and crew were kept in a dedicated area near the airport given that the female passengers and crew members were unable to comply with Iran’s dress code.
Iran is also under strict U.S. sanctions imposed by Donald Trump, so it’s uncertain how Norwegian Air will be able to repair the two-month-old airplane if U.S.-made parts are barred from legally entering the country. Earlier this year, Boeing and Airbus had to scrap deals with Iran’s commercial airlines for new airplanes worth $38 billion.
Considering the difficulties of being stuck in Iran, the crew must have felt it was necessary and safer than returning to Dubai or pressing on to Kuwait.
The Norwegian Air plane reportedly circled several times over the Shiraz region, after the pilots shut down engine #1 due to an “engine oil-associated” fault on the jet.
The Lion Air flight that crashed in the Java Sea in Indonesia in October, killing all 189 people aboard, was also a Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet that had been in service for just two months. Lion Air and Boeing are in a dispute over the cause of the crash, which likely stemmed from faulty instrumentation that kept placing the plane in a nosedive. Boeing claims that it had safety protocols in place in the event of such a malfunction that the crew did not follow.