Iran Air has acquired the first of three Boeing 747-300s from Al Sayegh Airlines.
The 1986-vintage aircraft (MSN 23408), which is still in storage, has been registered in Gambia since February 2012, according to sources.
UAE-based Sayegh Group, which owns Kyrgyzstan-based Al Sayegh Airlines, says: "Please [note] that Sayegh Group sold the three 747-300[s] to an aviation company, but not to Iran."
A source close to the matter confirms the aircraft was sold to an unnamed Gambian company. "It looks like the Gambian entity has fronted the deal," he says. According to Flightglobal's Ascend Online database, the aircraft was mostly recently registered as C5-SAM. C5 is the Gambian prefix.
Iran Air was not immediately available to comment on the transaction.
Al Sayegh Airlines has two further 747-300s in its fleet (MSN 23224 and 23823), which are both in storage and scheduled to be sold to Iran Air in May this year, sources say. Ascend Online shows both aircraft as currently registered in Burkina Faso as XT-DMA and XT-SAG, respectively, having been operated until late 2010 by Centrafrique Air Express.
Al Sayegh Airlines was founded by Saleem Al Sayegh, the chief executive of UAE-based National Paints, with the aim of operating five cargo aircraft and three passenger aircraft, according to reports at the time.
The three 747-300s, formerly operated by Qantas, were delivered to Al Sayegh Airlines in 2010. According to US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) documents, the aircraft were acquired by Sayegh Group Aviation, also under the National Paints umbrella.
These documents show that, at the time, the 747-300s were registered in the US under a Trust agreement arranged with the Bank of Utah.
According to its website: "Sayegh Group Aviation specialises in charter for large groups with its fleet of [Boeing] 747 aircraft." It also states that "Sayegh Group Aviation offers its fleet of Antonov [An-]12 aircraft for cargo charter."
However, Ascend data shows that the only aircraft Sayegh Group Aviation currently operates are two Ilyushin Il-18s. Its five Antonov aircraft are in storage, along with two Boeing 737-400s (MSN 24445 and 24438) which are scheduled to be leased in next month to Slovakia-based start-up airline SAM Air, also owned by Sayegh Group Aviation, according to Ascend.
Meanwhile, Iran Air has 44 aircraft in service, including 13 Airbus A300s, three A310s, five A320s, one Boeing 727, nine 747s and 13 Fokker 100s.