AOC and 737s top Iraqi's agenda

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Carrier releases request for proposals as it seeks to replace ageing fleet and register aircraft it already owns

Iraqi Airways intends to acquire five Boeing 737s to develop its fleet, but is struggling to recover its air operator's certificate.

New general manager Kifah Jabbar, speaking to Flight International at the Arab Air Carriers Organisation (AACO) conference in Kuwait, said the airline has formally requested proposals for 737-400/500s and-600/700s. He expects to reach a decision on sourcing the jets in around two months.

These would be used to replace ageing 737-200s leased from parties in the United Arab Emirates. The airline is also trying to place a Boeing 727-200 and 737-200 on the Iraqi register.

"We don't have any aircraft," says Jabbar. "The 727-200 and 737-200 should be Iraqi-registered by now. They're already paid for. But because of the abnormal situation, and no AOC, we can't register any aircraft under our name."

Iraqi Airways' own fleet was dispersed to Jordan and Tunisia during the 1991 Gulf conflict to liberate Kuwait. Inspection of the parked fleet, says Jabbar, indicates that at least three aircraft - the presidential Boeing 747SP and 727, plus a regular 727 - could be restored to airworthy condition.

"It would be easier to get our AOC back with these aircraft," he claims. "We're working very hard to obtain it."

Iraqi Airways has also been attempting to retrieve part of the payment it made to Airbus covering an order placed in 1990 for five A310s - a deal which, while remaining on the airframer's order book, was never fulfilled.

The airline has been gradually developing a network covering three domestic routes from Baghdad - to Basra, Erbil and Sulaymaniyah - and regional flights to cities including Amman, Beirut, Cairo, Damascus, Dubai, Istanbul and Tehran. It is keen to restore a Baghdad-London connection, possibly operating via Athens.