(Traveled on September 17, 2015)
This is the second part of my trip report covering my 2015 trip to Iran. In this report I look at the third day of the trip including a roundtrip to Zahedan on Iran Air MD-82 and Iran Aseman Airlines 727.
Table of Contents
- Getting to Tehran on IR 747-200 – The first part covers days 1 and 2 of the trip. It talks about getting to Tehran from Tokyo on AirAsia X A330-300 and Iran Air 747-200 and the first evening spent in Tehran.
- Zahedan on MD-82 and 727 – The second part covers day 3 of the trip. Included are stories from a roundtrip to Zahedan onboard Iran Air MD-82 and Iran Aseman 727, as well as spotting and sightseeing in Tehran.
- More Classics – 727, MD-83 & A310 – The third and final part covers days 4 and 5 of the trip: some more sightseeing in Tehran, flying to Shiraz and back on 727 and MD-83, and finally flying on to Vienna on an Iran Air A310-300.
Day 3: Ukrainian Mad Dog in Iran
It is always a pleasure to wake up in the middle of the night when making it on time to a flight on a new type or airline is in question. My first full day in Iran was of such nature. I was up shortly after 4AM. Thanks to my friend I did not have to take a taxi. He drove me instead, and shortly after 5AM he dropped me off at Mehrabad Airport. I made my way to Terminal 2 right away, as that was where my flight to Zahedan would be departing from at 6:20AM.
Date: September 17, 2015 (Wednesday)
Flight No.: IR 832
Route: Tehran Mehrabad – Zahedan
Airline: Iran Air
Aircraft: McDonnell Douglas MD-82 (UR-BXM)
STD / STA: 06:20AM / 08:05AM
By 5:05AM, I was standing in line for check-in. A couple of minutes later, I had a boarding pass in my hand – the only regular boarding pass on a domestic flight during the trip – and I went through security.
Since the gate for my flight was not printed on the boarding pass, and it wasn’t on the screens yet either, I waited in the central area before the gate was published and I made my way there. A short bus ride later, we arrived at our aircraft for the flight – an MD-82 registered UR-BXM. Who would have thought that my first flight on an Ukrainian aircraft would be in Iran!
I climbed the aircraft stairs, and settled into seat 7A, getting ready for my first MD-82 flight. While the boarding was in progress, I was approached by one of the attendants:
“Excuse me, Sir. You are Mohammad’s friend?”
“He mentioned you would be onboard. Please enjoy the flight.”
Good guess! Although, to be fair, it wasn’t difficult to recognize me since I was anyone looking at least remotely foreign on the flight. I can imagine not many foreigners take flight to Zahedan – a city only 41 kilometres away from the tripoint of Iran-Pakistan-Afghanistan borders.
With about 20 minutes of delay, we started taxiing and left the apron full of classic aircraft including the Mahan Air 747-300 which I unfortunately did not get to fly on during the trip and that, at the time of writing this report is grounded after part of its engine fell off after take-off from Tehran.
Iranian hospitality once again – on an hour and a half long domestic flight we got a full warm breakfast. Scrambled eggs and sausage, bread, apple pie, you name it. Compare that with what one would get on a similar flight with a European flag carrier!
After the breakfast, I sat in my seat relaxing and enjoying the scenery passing by… and waiting for the flight attendant to come back. And indeed she came back about 20 minutes later inviting me to the cockpit. A quick thanks to the man sitting next to me for letting me pass, up through the isle, and I was in paradise once again!
Since the captain was formerly a first officer on the 747, I heard some more stories from the good old flight from Tehran to Tokyo. As I knew that we would be landing soon, I asked the captain if I could stay in the cockpit for landing. He said he would try to ask security. A couple of Persian words I did not understand later, the captain was closing the door. With me on the inside! I was extremely happy, as it was the first jumpseat landing in my life!
Unfortunately, way too soon we touched down on runway 35, and after slowing down we did a 180 degree turn to backtrack to the terminal. I bid farewell to the captain and first officer and left the cockpit. As I still had my bag at my seat, I had to wait until the stream of passengers getting off stopped.
I quickly grabbed my bag, and headed out. My boarding pass was checked during de-boarding, as the flight continues on to Chabahar and the passengers heading there stay onboard during the stop in Zahedan. Out on the apron, one last wave to the pilots and off into the terminal…
Day 3: Iran Aseman 727 – Long Time No Trijet!
I had about four hours to kill before my flight back to Tehran would depart. Since there does not seem to be much to do in Zahedan, I decided to spend those hours at the airport and relax a bit instead. I waited for a couple of hours outside on a bench right next to the terminal switching between reading a book, listening to a podcast, and watching people come in and out of the terminal.
About two hours before departure, I headed inside the hall. The terminal has a security check point at its entrance that I passed without any problems. The terminal itself is two floors with check in counters, departures and arrivals including the baggage reclaim all on the first floor. For the hungry and thirsty, there is also a small cafe. I bought some cookies and tasty mango juice and kept waiting…
Date: September 17, 2015 (Wednesday)
Flight No.: EP851
Route: Zahedan – Tehran Mehrabad
Airline: Iran Aseman Airlines
Aircraft: Boeing 727-228(Adv) (EP-ASA)
STD / STA: 12:15PM / 02:15PM
About an hour before the departure time, I headed over to the check-in counter where I was handed my boarding pass. This time it was a very classic looking boarding card without any personal information. Just the seat number sticker and a Persian number with unknown meaning on it.
After obtaining my boarding pass, I went to the second floor where our 727 was visible, and then I went straight through security. Being a small airport, the passengers walk to the plane. I could not believe it. Once again, what a moment! It was 2015, and I was walking to board a Boeing 727! On top of it being a 727, it was also my first trijet flight since I was a child. I was very excited stepping onboard the aircraft!
I was greeted by the flight attendant and headed to my window seat, 12A. Soon, the engines started to roar and we were taxiing to the runway. After take-off, we were offered great views of the city of Zahedan as well as of the surrounding desert.
About 20 minutes after take-off, a lunch was served. The rest of the flight was, arguably, uneventful… However, just the fact that I was sitting in such a historic aircraft was an experience in itself!
Way too soon, we started descending and approaching Tehran Mehrabad airport. We landed at about 2:40PM, and before landing we were able to enjoy great views of seemingly endless Tehran. Our aircraft parked next to another 727, EP-IAA in old Iran Aseman colors, and at 2:50PM, I left the aircraft through the front stairs.
From there, we were bussed to the terminal. The bus ride was an experience in itself – passing by numerous classic and rare aircraft including Iran Aseman Cargo 727s, Iran Air 747SPs, and the Iranian Government fleet including A340, A321 and a Boeing 707.
Day 3: Exploring Tehran
After getting out of the terminal, I found my friend and his Peugeot in the busy drive way, and we headed off.
First, we stopped by a pedestrian bridge right next to the runway for about an hour. While unfortunately, I could not catch an Iran Aseman 727 or Mahan Air 747-300, I was able to get a number of MD-80s of various airlines, and also an Antonov An-74 of the Revolutionary Guards.
We would have stayed at the place longer; however, unfortunately the clouds rolled in, and so it was not worth risking getting caught anymore. Instead, we headed off to do a little tour of Tehran starting with Azadi Square which is near the airport.
A quick stop to get a drink at a local store, and then we were off to Northern Tehran. There is a park on top of a hill that offers great views of the city. On top of that, the park itself is beautiful, and it let’s one see the ordinary life of Tehran citizens – children playing soccer or playing on the playset, couples walking around enjoying the view and older people relaxing.
To finish off the day, we went to Nayeb – a traditional Iranian restaurant – for a kebab. Just writing this makes me want to eat more of it!