Searchers are reportedly scouring mountainous terrain in northwest Iran for a Bell 212 that was carrying president Ebrahim Raisi and other officials.

The disappearance of the rotorcraft, which has received blanket coverage on Iranian media, reportedly occurred on 19 May.

Raisi Helicopter

Source: Iranian state media

An image of Raisi’s Bell 212 purportedly taken on 19 May

Reports suggest that the helicopter was carrying nine passengers. In addition to Raisi it was also carrying foreign minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian. Others aboard included the leader of the country’s East Azerbaijan province, a senior religious official from Tabriz, security personnel, and two crew members.

The exact nature of the incident is not clear. Some Iranian reports phrase the incident as a “crash”, some refer to it as a “hard landing”

“Rescue teams, including armed forces, are combing the rocky area and the hilly terrain near the city of Varzaqan in East Azarbaijan province and have narrowed down the radius of their search to 2km despite foggy and rainy weather,” reports the Islamic Republic News Agency.

“A commander of Iran’s Revolution Guards Corps now confirms the detection by a drone of a heat source which is believed to be the wreckage of the helicopter”.

Reports suggest that the aircraft was flying in heavy fog at the time of the crash, and that fog continues to hamper search efforts.

The helicopter, along with two others, was reportedly flying from the inauguration of a new dam on the border of Iran and neighbouring Azerbaijan to the Iranian city of Tabriz.

Half an hour into the flight, the helicopter carrying Raisi lost contact with its two companions.

Cirium fleets data indicates that the Iranian air force operates four Bell 212s. Two serve in the VIP/Head of State Transport mission, and two as military multi-role assets.

The average age of the Iranian air force’s Bell 212 fleet is 30.5 years. The age of its newest Bell 212 is 30.9 years and the oldest 31.8 years.